A recent magazine article proposed what will happen when the “old guard” – namely Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Metallica – who are still capable of filling arenas call it a day, who will step up and take their place? Who in the next generation would actually be able to achieve that level of popularity?
.Sweden’s Wolf seem to be one of the least likely to reach such commercial heights, but it’s not for lack of trying. Their songs at least sound like they should be levelling arenas, rather than preaching to the converted in clubs and melting faces at European festivals. Even if they don’t reach such dizzying levels of success, the band appear to at least have aspirations of taking their proudly traditionalist brand of heavy metal to wider audiences – note a recent tour with heavyweights Trivium as evidence.
More than 15 years and six albums into their career, Wolf know what works for them. There are few surprises on Legions of Bastards, but they deliver these songs with their usual gusto, ensuring diehards will be reaching for their battle jackets and bullet belts within mere seconds of the record kicking off. For the uninitiated, the quartet’s ethos isn’t dissimilar to 3 Inches of Blood’s “metal in our veins” sensibility. Their sound is built on an energetic wave of Niklas Stalvind’s Painkiller-era Halford-esque vocals, NWOBHM-informed guitar harmonies, proudly defiant lyrics and the odd hardcore breakdown (try and pick which of the above is a lie). It’s fun, frenetic and hook-filled; the opening one-two jab of ‘Vicious Companions’ and ‘Skull Crusher’ a blistering, yet infectious statement of intent.
You can play “spot the riff” on occasion – most notably from Maiden and Priest, but the band keeps things moving at such a cracking pace there’s little time to dwell on it. The only significant criticism – and it’s one common of many metal records being released these days – is it’s a track or two too long, outstaying its welcome by just a fraction. That’s no major crime when the songs are this invigorating and energizing though; see the galloping ‘Hope to Die’ or ball-busting ‘Full Moon Possession’. The band also indulges their cheesy, yet endearing comic book/horror side on the likes of ‘Jekyll & Hyde’ and ‘Tales From The Crypt’; the former featuring some quite frankly ludicrous (but hilarious) lyrics and a pounding groove and the latter boasting soaring, memorable melody lines.
They may not be coming to an arena near you anytime soon (although they are a highly entertaining live act), but Wolf have the chops, the balls and the integrity of their massive venue-packing forefathers. Heavy metal’s present and future remains in good hands.
1. Vicious Companions
2. Skull Crusher
3. Full Moon Possession
4. Jekyll & Hyde
6. Tales from the Crypt
7. Nocturnal Rites
8. Road to Hell
9. False Preacher
10. Hope to Die
11. K-141 Kursk