VARG, Wolfskult (2011, NoiseArt)

The skull:
“Wolfskult” is German for “wolf skullet” and you can see here a majestic specimen of this incredibly rare coif. Typically, the wolves emerge from the back of a balding man’s head but here they are attached to a literal skull, for added authenticity. The wolves are being blown up somewhat by a black wind, I assume, as they would ordinarily hang down in the back. This somewhat spoils the effect of the “Austrian passport” as the doo is sometimes called, but I will admit that it does make for a striking composition. The skull, as you can imagine, is most pleased with his snarling wolvenlocks, and is probably off to pick up chicks. What woman could say no?

The music:
I was expecting black metal, that being the typical style of bands named after wolves (especially in Swedish), but actually this is some kind of pagan death metal. Unlike, say, Ensiferum, however, Varg are actually a death metal band, and not some trumped-up power metal band with a growler. I’m reminded more of turn-of-the-century Hypocrisy than anything else, with maybe a hint of Amon Amarth in the cheesier moments. There are no nasal clean vocals attempting to summon the spirit of the meadhall; there are no flutes or bagpipes, no folk. And unlike Turisas, Varg does not wear comical barbarian furs. But, exactly like Turisas, they paint their bodies in red and black stripes (and no doubt causing Glenn Tipton to wonder why he didn’t think of it.) I’m not about to research this, but I assume there’s some quasi-historical theme at work here, a la Braveheart, although really, it’s a stupid practice no matter the provenance. I generally find the whole “pagan” scene to be ridiculous and lame, but Varg are at least better than most of their pipe-tooting, horn-hoisting, jig-dancing cohort, and if painting yourself like a circus tent and paling around with Eluveitie is what you have to do to make a buck in this business, well, there are worse ways to debase yourself — you could always play in Trollfest.
— Friar Johnsen

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