To Quench the Thirst of Wolves: an inspired drama of operatic atmospheric BM

Rift, To Quench the Thirst of Wolves, Australia, Séance Records, SEANCE 041 limited edition digisleeve / cassette (2021)

Formed in East Corrimal in Wollongong, south of Sydney, by guitarist Balam as his solo atmospheric BM project back in 2004, Rift released an EP in 2006 and then started work on first album “To Quench the Thirst of Wolves”. The work was then shelved for many years and Rift itself put on hold until 2021, when A.S. joined Rift on vocal duties. Just goes to show how dedication and patience eventually pays off, if you want the music and all its elements to be just right for the vision you are pursuing. And from the very start of this album, with the short instrumental opening track “The Coffins”, that vision becomes very clear indeed: it is a mystical, hypnotic and even beautiful vision though it is also a vision filled with menace and terror. As “The Coffins” segues straight into “Acolyte of Worms”, the music expands into a grand universe of epic raw tremolo guitar riffs, fluttery drumming, melancholy lead guitar drone melodies and A.S.’s tortured vocals labouring under bleaching distortion. “Acolyte …” switches from harsh blizzard BM noise to introspective dark blues guitar strumming and back to powerful atmospheric BM majesty full of strange radiant post-BM feeling.

The songs that follow “Acolyte …” boast very strong melodies and drama, accompanied by a distinct ambience that appears warm and uplifting but which turns out cold and inhuman in its own strange alien ways, as evidenced by the dark ghost choirs of “Night Glare” sighing in the background while A.S. roars in the far distance and fluttery blast beats, space-ambient keyboard melodies, orchestral synth ambient backgrounds and layers of blizzard guitar and clear-toned guitar sadness flesh out the sonic territory. While song titles reference lycanthropy and the mysterious soundscapes inhabited by werewolves, the music is much, much grander than the pulp-comic subject matter might suggest. Dark desperate urban blues soundscapes appear in the title track and it would seem the desolate world we humans have made for themselves is more than parallel with the world in which our human counterparts live in terror of werewolves and other demonic spirits … both worlds are one and the same. While instrumental music sections on the title track and on some other songs later in the album can be quite lengthy, every moment is made to work and the music is constantly pushing forward, generating intense and sometimes even quite overwhelming emotion and sadness.

Most songs are very strong and distinct in their own way even though the range of instruments used does not vary. “Innards of Malevolence” is a hyper-speedy number while “Graven Solace” features a short orchestral mini-opera at its start before morphing into a droning doom / dungeon synth performance. Into its second half the songs are still fairly strong, oozing anger, pain, terror and sorrow through droning riffs, though the high-pitched angelic choirs can be bland and tiresome. While the music is good, there are also elements (like those angel singers and the reliance on orchestral synth backing to help build the music into a huge towering sonic structure) that can appear stereotypical and only the raw quality of the BM guitar texture layers and the singing keep the songs on the right side of being sharp and harsh.

The album turns out to be a mighty epic drama of operatic atmospheric BM filled with complex music and moods, dark beauty mixed with raw savage aggression, and a distinct ambience that, like the music generating it, embraces all its contradictions. The recording appears bright, warm and glowing but that warm fuzzy feeling comes from the darkness and its demonic terrors. Balam and A.S. do an excellent job pushing themselves and what their instruments are capable of to the utmost, and the result is an inspired and passionate debut album.