posted on 2/2007 By:
Firstly, I’d like to apologize to Wolverine and Candlelight Records for taking a whore’s age to get around to this review. Sorry, folks.
Secondly, I’d like to ask a question: why exactly is prog rock still called prog rock? I understand that the idea is that prog rock bands use songwriting elements and musical tricks that are alien to traditional rock music. But when so many prog rock bands use the same elements and trick, doesn’t the genre cease to, y’know, progress?
Enter Sweden’s Wolverine. Once a progressive metal outfit along the lines of mid-period Opeth, Wolverine has now arrived at—what else?—a latter Opeth/Porcupine Tree inspired prog rock sound. Though this band is very skilled and their songs are sometimes quite powerful, much of Still has an almost perfunctory feel about it. In short, this is prog rock, but it’s pretty referential for something that prurports to be experimental.
My somewhat negative reaction to Still can be chalked up to my distaste for false progressivism, but I certainly can’t fault Wolverine for sloppiness or impatience. Fans of the band’s past works will notice that even more metal has been extracted from their sound; songs like “Taste of Sand” and “Nothing More” are contemplative, riff-free affairs, while drummer Marcus Losbjer’s death growl has completely disappeared. In his place, though, vocalist Stefan Zell has stepped up and become a truly impressive frontman. His perfect mastery of the Mikael Akerfeldt/Dan Swanö vocal style allows him to contribute some genuinely emotional moments to Still; potent opener “House of Plague,” for example, contains a searing and ridiculously catchy layered chorus, while Zell’s voice touches the listener more delicately on the ethereal (and quite good) “Sleepy Town.” Not to be outdown, Stefan’s brother Mikael Zell puts on quite a show on guitar with some heaving, dark, and melodic riffing (“Liar on the Mount,” “This Cold Heart of Mine” amongst others) and a number of tasteful—and extremely Mike Akerfeldt/Steve Wilson-esque—solos. Even the production has a very full, round feel that calls to mind the aforementioned guitarists’ bands (Opeth and Porcupine Tree).
And yet despite how well-executed this album is, it’s still just a bit boring. My problems with the ‘prog’ misnomer aside, Still is just an awfully familiar-sounding album by a band who clearly have scads of talent and ought to use it. Some great songs and excellent performances make Still enjoyable, but Wolverine’s got a ways to go before they’ll be anything but a second-tier act.
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