HUNTSMEN have returned to add a dynamic new chapter to the rich and varied tradition of great American storytelling. Mandala of Fear, massive in scope and spanning two full LPs, explores themes of trauma, recovery, and - ultimately - survival, through the lens of a fully formed sci-fi-esque tale set in the near future as unending desert war crumbles into apocalypse. Having enlisted Aimee Bueno to provide vocals for the final track of American Scrap, her role has since evolved into being an equal participant in the Huntsmen adventure.
With the dust barely settled in the aftermath of 2017’s American Scrap, the now expanded Chicago-based ensemble set about creating the framework that the intricate and immersive story of Mandala of Fear would hang from. The tale follows a soldier on her first combat mission gone wrong, as she encounters wartime horrors and traverses obstacles - both physical and emotional - dredging depths of internal resilience as she redefines the meaning of personal strength. Her saga can be consumed as a standalone epic, or approached as a metaphor for those same themes as experienced by the story’s authors.
Whilst storytelling has been - and remains - at the core of all that HUNTSMEN is, they continue to dissolve the boundaries between metal and the more traditional modes of folk and country. Americana-metal still rings true as a descriptor, from the opening bars through to the denouement of the album a full 85 minutes later. With sparkling, yearning highs speaking of vulnerability and hope, and bleak, soul crushing lows groaning a dirge of isolation and despair, Mandala of Fear marries melody and progressive elements to create an undulating foundation to layer its dystopian missive on atop.
Recorded at Decade Studios in Chicago with Sanford Parker occupying the producer’s chair, Mandala of Fear was laid down over two weeks in April 2019. Parker’s own love of true American storytellers such as Waylon Jennings further imbued the spirit of the tradition into every crevice of the album, while his leanings toward icy electronic music provide a chilling and gut-wrenching counterpoint. Paired with HUNTSMEN’s past-and-future timelessness, the result is breathtaking and devastating.
With no stone unturned in the all-consuming Mandala of Fear, the album is accompanied by visual elements that enhance the narrative. With cover artwork painted by drummer Ray Knipe depicting the site of this telling of humanity’s last
great war, the album is further complemented by the addition of an accompanying comic book; the characters are brought to life via the drawings of Danny White.
Richmond, Indiana’s WOLFTOOTH launched onto the scene in 2017, swiftly grabbing the attention of fans, tastemakers and industry alike. Now, building upon the subterranean success of their lauded previous albums (2018’s Wolftooth and 2020’s Valhalla), the band unveils their colossal full-length Napalm Records debut, Blood & Iron, out December 3, 2021. Offering an immense slab of proto-metal influenced heaviness with a deep dose of doom essence and addictive stoner riffage, Blood & Iron isn’t just epic in sound, but at heart. The album travels through a treasure trove of fantasy-themed lyrical influences – exploring mystical and often treacherous themes of mythology, lore and legend with a focus on sorcery, battle and non-stop adventure. Recorded, mixed and mastered by producer Jeremy Lovins, Blood & Iron is a true nod to classic, feel-good American heavy metal with modernized flair. Today, listeners can get a first taste of Blood & Iron with victorious first single “The Voyage”, accompanied by a brand new music video filmed in Indianapolis, Indiana by Mike Yonts. Fists will be pumping within the first few notes as the track triumphantly gallops forth with chugging riffs, soaring vocals, piercing basslines and powerful melodies.
If you enjoy your metal homegrown, larger-than-life and with a weighty dose of mystical storytelling, WOLFTOOTH’s Blood & Iron is your newest obsession.
Blood & Iron begins ominously with “Ahab” – beckoning the listener to join WOLFTOOTH’s fabled trek with an isolated guitar introduction before bursting into a sticky, metallic blues jam, instantly echoing the likes of Black Sabbath to Pallbearer while maintaining fresh delivery. The track effectively poises the album for greatness before leading into two tales of historic prevalence backed by trudging riffage – Xerces epic “Hellespont”, and mythical ode to triumphant Irish warrior Cú Chulainn, “Blood & Iron”. The tracks ebb and flow amid melodic solos, sludgy rhythms and charging drums, evident on songs like galloping, thrash-injected assault “Broken Sword” and headbang-inducing, lead-laden “A King’s Land”. WOLFTOOTH continue their immense sonic storytelling with soaring saga “The Voyage” and frigid ballad “Winter White” before closing out the nine enormous tunes on Blood & Iron with two of its most standout offerings – cohesive and rhythmically-enticing “Garden Of Hesperides” and driving final epic “The Mare” – depicting stories of 100-headed dragons, witches, dark horses and mind control. What more could a true metalhead ask for?
WOLFTOOTH adds about the album:
"Blood & Iron is the culmination of all the work that we as a band have put into forging our sound over the last four years. Musically, we feel that we've honed what works well for us while expanding on what was already there. This album represents a more mature direction, relying on classic heavy metal influence with a strong nod to our proto-metal roots. Lyrically, the album focuses on kings, battle, conquest and myth. These elements together coalesce into a riff-laden slab of heavy metal that we are all proud of."