Culling of Wolves is the latest from the Arizona death metal act, Knights of the Abyss. When I started playing this album, the first thing that struck me was a very audible Black Dahlia Murder influence, and a definite affinity for Gothenburg style guitar riffs. Knights of the Abyss certainly likes to use swirling guitar riffs and blast-beats, along with a few breakdowns added in from time to time. The House of Crimson Coin gives the album a very compelling start with sweeping guitars and several throaty growls from Harley Magnum (a metal name if there ever was one). Songs like Pandemic and Deceiver's Creed both contain many satisfying moments and the guitarists display a strong command over the creation of melodic arrangements. Some moments on the album, like the end of Den of the Deceived even bear a similarity to the dirge-like riffing of Incantation and Immolation. Another strong point is the guitar solo on Slave Nation, which has an almost Necrophagist-style flare to it. The band is heavily studied the in standards of modern melodic death metal, and they make it very clear that this is their intention. The production is very strong, although it would have been nice to hear more from the bassist.
The record shows focus and direction, but perhaps a little too much.
The album is hampered by a tendency of all of the songs to bleed together too easily, to the point where the lack of variation makes the album sound more like one big song rather than 11 unique tracks. The riffing is strong, but the style gets a little tiresome after about four songs and the vocals, while very consistent, don't really stand out from Knights of the Abyss' contemporaries. According to their press release, the band has made it very clear that they "are not trying to associate" themselves "with anything but death metal" and yet they also state that they "don't want to back ourselves into a corner", two statements that completely contradict each other.
I also have a bit of a hang-up when it comes to the lyrical "Concept" of this album, that being conspiracy theories about The Federal Reserve Bank, the Bilderberg Group, and the Bohemian Grove. I certainly hope that the band is using this material as an imaginative backdrop to their music, rather than something that they are actually invested in. I'm sure the band realizes this and is only employing the material as a sort of "what if" thought experiment.
The album shows a talented band with a clear view of what they want to be, but does not yet have a distinctive sound of their own yet. With more variation in tempo and riffing style, the band could really make more of themselves. For their musicianship and their good taste in influences, I'd give this record a 6/10.
Favorite Tracks: The House of Crimson Coin, Deceiver's Creed, and Slave Nation