Last week saw the release of “Clawing into Black Sun” the third album from Minneapolis/Chicago band Wolvhammer. I wasn’t exactly waiting with baited breath for a new Wolvhammer album, but it was in the back of my mind that I wanted to hear how they may have evolved. Wolvhammer play a blackened sludge metal and are fully stocked with current and former members of Samothrace, Across Tundras, Iron Thrones, Nachtmystium, Abigail Williams, and the list goes on.

The band’s last album, 20011’s “The Obsidian Plains” was pretty good and I remember liking it. There were a few small areas of improvement that I felt could take the band from pretty good to bloody awesome. At the time those little criticisms were very amorphous and vague; it wasn’t until hearing “Clawing into Black Sun” that those things came into clearer focus for me, but at that point all I could do was stand back and point, repeating “Yes! Yes, that’s it!”

Having both albums to compare side by side now, it is fairly simple to pick out the things that deserved more attention, and damn if they didn’t move forward in leaps and bounds. “The Obsidian Plains” tends toward faster songs with a very sharp and cutting guitar tone. That’s all well and good, but they kind of occupied too much of the same sonic territory as the harsh vocals, and they rather got in each other’s way a little. Still enjoyable, but upon hearing the new songs my ears found it much easier to separate the two.

“Clawing into Black Sun” features a deeper, heavier guitar sound that hangs out more in the lower range. This has the dual effect of leaving the higher range open for, and driving attention to, the vocals, while also making the songs crushingly heavy. These songs seem a bit slower than on the previous album. There are certainly faster moments, but I really like the mid-tempo songs; they bring a more contemplative element to the music as well as displaying an obvious maturity in songwriting.

The contrast between music and vocals is outstanding. The music, while heavy, also has subtle melody and an almost drone quality that lulls me into a trance, but then the harsh vocals come along and snap me back into the moment. I cannot overstate how well this combination works.

“The Obsidian Plans” was good, but “Clawing into Black Sun” is that moment when a band truly finds their sound and come into their own. I cannot wait to hear where they go from here. Make sure you give Wolvhammer a listen.

Here is the magnificent album closer, “A Light That Does Not Yield.”