Blackwülf - Sinister Sides

Blackwülf Sinister Sides cover
Sinister Sides
Ripple Music
Leading the pack as the latest venture in a long line of wolfed-out metal (i.e. Wolfsbane, Wolf, Grey Wolf, Wülfhook, Wolftooth, etc.) is Oakland, California’s Blackwülf, a hard-driving and, at times, grippingly mellow stoner/doom quartet which, unlike its explicitly Black Sabbath emulating counterparts across the Bay, San Francisco’s Orchid, benefits from a fiercely expressive front man in Alex Cunningham, whose gruff Southern sounding twang brings to mind Goatsnake’s Pete Stahl from days of yore on the outright rough and tumble tracks, while evoking a Bob Seger-like resigned calm and placid disposition on more easygoing fare such as the commendable soft crooner, “Waiting on Tomorrow”.
Another reason I’m so smitten by the Americans’ third full-length, “Sinister Sides” (released via Ripple Music), is its crystal clear yet not over-done level of production and mercurially tempo’d musicianship, which places great emphasis on the bass and drums without neglecting the guitarist’s fluid and loose swamp boogie swings (the second half of opener “Gates of Sorrow” parallels Orchid’s “Dogs of War” while the hokey albeit jovial midpoint riffs of “Blind to Fate” and “The Tempest” smack of Orange Goblin and Church of Misery, respectively), gritty and truculent tremor – the charging main riff (as well as chorus) to “Sinister Sides” proper makes me think of Soundgarden’s “Rusty Cage” – or compelling as Hell slow-burn bluesy melody and languor, so prevalent on “Battle Line”, a winning humdinger of a closer as it instils in me a similar care-free and wistful recollection as Pentagram’s “Review Your Choices” and/or ”Last Daze Here”. I’d even go as far as comparing it to Jimi Hendrix’s timeless gem, “Hey Baby” thanks to its poignant effortless ease and super soulful pace.
As far as leads go, imagine Tony Iommi’s sharp, evil style intermingled with Victor Griffin’s diabolical warbling and Joe Hasselvander’s level-headed ardor compounded by a thicker register. In other words, Pete Holmes’ timely and bursting pentatonic soloing, instead of ascribing to a lean and mean/cut and dry approach, heavily makes its presence known as it has more meat on its bones. For instance, dig Holmes’ fuzzy, grooved out and downright scorching lead guitar entrance fifteen seconds into “Sinister Sides” – if this fails to carbonize itself on your mind I don’t know what will! – or all-out wah-wah infused accouterments on the menacing “Sunshine of Your Love” cover; suffice to say, this bad ass reprise of the late 60s, “white man’s” blues classic cozily sits at home aside the seven originals, while duly showcasing Eric Clapton’s Cream as a bona fide purveyor of all things “heavy” – to borrow the era’s lingo – alongside Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Iron Butterfly, Deep Purple, The Who and Black Sabbath.
For that matter, Scott Peterson’s buzzing and blobbing bass lines thickly resound, like they do during the slowly incepting introductions of “Gates of Sorrow” or “Dead to the World”, for all intents and purposes, a dead-ringer for Sabbath’s “Children of the Grave”, which would fit “Master of Reality” like a velvet glove (sheathed in an iron fist of course!), due to Cunningham’s vitriolic and sly, admittedly slightly Ozzy-ish, delivery and Holmes’ composed down-tuned riffing and twisted lead fills. The back-handed and downwind bridge, so haphazardly but deftly laid down by Dave Pankenier's break-beat style drum beat, only serves to ratchet the doom factor in anticipation of Holmes’ harried and oracular barn-burner of a guitar solo. However, to Pankenier’s credit, he often goes above and beyond mere Bill Ward inspired antics, clearly displaying a singular style in a similar manner as Demon Eye’s Bill Eagan or Orange Goblin’s Chris Turner. Prime examples include the frantic and tumbling drum rolls, which so raucously send “Sinister Sides” careening over the top of the mountain or the demonic ride and staccato beats underlying “The Tempest”, as they fervently give “Fairies Wear Boots” a good run for its money. Once the riff and tempo change come about two and some minutes in, all bets are off as the song takes on a life of its own, Cunningham’s swarthy, grease-ridden drawls and Holmes’ wildly extensive leads withstanding.
Place it on its highly accessible bent or catchy, fulminating cadence but Blackwülf’s “Sinister Sides” is the kind of rampant and upbeat, swaggering doom I could listen to for hours on end. As inferred, except for a token moment of self-indulgence on behalf of its otherwise appealing conductor, the “Loup Noir” is certainly worth checking out if, like my good friend and metal protégé, you’re on the hunt for something colorful and fresh, which shrewdly avoids toe-ing the Sabbath line in a blatant and overt manner.