Saturday, February 24, 2018

Wolfmangler-Cooking With Wolves; Black Horizons Records, 2008

A recent trip down to Venice, CA had Disaster Amnesiac checking out a small, funky shop on Venice Blvd. I'd already picked out a few slabs when Cooking With Wolves, a 2008 release from Wolfmangler, a mysterious, Black Metal project that seems to have originated in Poland caught my eye.
Admittedly, it was the crazy script of their logo that pulled me in. Adding to this fascination was an online review that I read, essentially trashing the LP as non-musical conceit and a total waste of time. Pretty much anything that gets that kind of derision piques my interest.
Having listened to Cooking With Wolves, and really having enjoyed its Blackened sounds, Disaster Amnesiac must strongly disagree with the naysayer.
Starting off with a Cole Porter tune, All Of You, Wolfmangler sets the tone of the release with somber cello riffs that feature heavy, dragging bow techniques and gruffly whispered vocals. Google the lyrics to this 1954 song, and you may see how and why it fits within the sentiments of a Black Metal set.  It's a fascinating connecting of the pathos of Jazz with that of later forms. Disaster Amnesiac really loves the sound of what I believe is the cello being struck for percussive accenting, too.
Traditional Polish song Czerwony Pas is up next, and it sounds perfect for the type of treatment that Wolfmangler utilize. Its ascending chorus fits really well with the vocal technique as the relatively simple Folk melody chases behind it. Cool arco bends from the cello give feelings of unease; perhaps you're not welcome in this village, stranger.
Heading back across the Atlantic for track three, Wolfmangler takes on Hammerstein and Kern's 1927 Ol' Man River, where Disaster Amnesiac is hearing electric bass along with the cello. Originally a show tune, it becomes on Cooking With Wolves a powerful track of Doom Metal. Instead of seeing the languid Mississippi as I've listened, I've seen freezing ice floes in the dead of winter in some Eastern European backwater.  The cold Minimalist tones continue almost without pause on Beata Z. Albatrosa, which, like its predecessor, floats coldly upon the whispered vocals and sparse cello scrapes.
Disaster Amnesiac seriously wishes that the vocals on side A's last track, Compost With a Grudge, were more understandable to my ears. They are listed as being sourced from "various journalists". Given its title, it makes me wonder if these words are purely taken out of reviews of Wolfmangler's music. Are they pro or con? Supportive or dismissive? I'm leaning more on the side of the latter, but who knows? All that I know is that the vocals become pure texture to my ears, which is never a bad thing for this listener either.
Side two of Wolves gets its start with Zegar, as more mournful cello and bass guitar pairings entwine with what Disaster Amnesiac feels is the most gravelly, spitting vocal performance of the LP.  The vocals linger down into the bowel of the singer before being dragged, slowly, up and out into the air.
More traditional Polish tune-age is presented with Szwolezerowie, which brings back the percussive cello body knocks, huge mid-song spaces of vertigo-inducing Minimalism, and vocals almost...almost sung, as opposed to growled or burped, and great melodic feels that Wolfmangler seems to be really able to pull from their tradition. Surely, this is Black Metal success.
Coooking With Wolves concludes with another pass at Porter, thing time 1934's (You'd Be So) Easy to Love, listed without the parenthetical portion. After a pretty extended opening portion, in which acoustic bass and cello twine and twist around the melody, the vocals come in with whispered intimacy. This track feels pretty close to Jazz for this listener; Disaster Amnesiac can imagine similar versions of this standard coming from the haunted minds of Arthur Doyle or Don Ayler.
One thing that you've just got to admit in 2018 is that Metal can produce just as much Experimental Music as any other genres are capable of. Disaster Amnesiac finds bands such as Wolfmangler to be incredibly fascinating and enjoyable due to this reality. Cooking With Wolves, with its icy Minimalist take on the song form, filtered through Black Metal aesthetics, is a fine example of that type of action. Anyone know of live tracks from this group that are out there?

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