Immense’ is the first word that comes to mind upon hearing this self-titled download (and cassette, due imminently) from Dublin avant-hardcore crew Wölfbait. They’re a bit of an unknown quantity, this lot: not much of a web presence, just the odd gig listing or video, from which at least I can determine they’re a five-piece. But I guess that inscrutability only adds to the mystique that envelops their remarkable debut full-length, a 50-minute guided tour of Hell’s worst neighbourhoods.
The first of the album’s eight tracks, ‘Gasp (Grey Earth)‘, doesn’t waste time putting the willies up anyone daring to listen, as it crawls from a slimy mire amid buzzing electronics, giant plodding drums, whirling guitars and disembodied vocals – both guttural bellows from the deep and tortured wails of anguish, as if they’ve got The Jesus Lizard’s David Yow trapped down a well while the band looms overhead, tape recorder in hand, to capture the response to their deadpanning: “Put the lotion in the basket.”
That harrowing stuff segues straight into the spiralling crusty hardcore chug of ‘ΑΝΤΙΚΡΙΣΤΟΣ‘, a tornado of a tune that sounds like all the non-grind bits from Side A of Napalm Death’s Scum played together at once. Track number three, ‘Thrall‘, is a towering structure of doom that quickly begins to crumble and fall apart, overwhelmed by clouds of noise, by the fog of war. In a similarly monumental fashion, fourth track ‘Bile‘ metastasises around a simple three-chord riff bludgeoned into submission.
And it just keeps coming: ‘Aftertaste‘ is seven minutes of rolling and tumbling drums, howling winds and electric atmosphere, pouring into the warped, blackened blues of ‘Eyeless Skull (tuhkakaupunki)‘ that drives forward on a syncopated beat before collapsing in an interlude of haunted static, then reprising the previous track’s thunderous percussive heft. And on ‘Coffin Horse‘ they literally beat a single noise from their instruments for the song’s duration. On their minimal Facebook page the band call this ‘kraut violence’ but there’s nothing krautrock about it apart from the hypnotic repetition, executed with the single-minded goal not of transcendence as much as simply pummelling the senses.
All of that leads up to the 13-minute finale ‘Hawthorne Rattle‘, which might be the most unsettling piece of music I’ve heard all year: a trip along the River Styx as ghostly, back-masked moans stretch and contort among evil electronic oscillations, chilling bell tolls and a single bass string plucked over, and over, and over. Ominous isn’t even the word for it.
It’s an extraordinary thing, what Wölfbait have produced here; an oppressive anti-symphony of rancid bleakness that will leave your soul wrung out and limp on the floor.