Review Summary: A great throwback to the glory days of 80's metal.
You have to wonder just where heavy metal would stand if the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) hadn't taken place. Many legendary bands had come out of this explosion of music, such as Angel Witch, Diamond Head, and even Def Leppard! However, not many can argue that the most important of all of them was the mega-hit group Iron Maiden. The band proved to be an instant hit with heavy metal and hard rock fans, with their debut release containing classics such as "Phantom of the Opera" and "Remember Tomorrow" among others. The band's early work influenced a huge legion of other metal bands in a similar vein to the world-popular British group, including Wolf.
Wolf, hailing from Orebro, Sweden, have elevated their classic metal style to the high quality that previous records had only hinted at. While many NWOBHM imitators/modernizers have been exceedingly stale due to running short on imagination with the material, Wolf have added in a few new tricks of their own. The first thing you'll notice is how damn heavy the whole affair is. Especially in songs like "At the Graveyard," Wolf meld a knack for heavy bass lines with a catchy melodic side, something that many modern metal artists have a hard time accomplishing these days.
As I said, just considering the band a heavier Iron Maiden wouldn't exactly do the band much justice, considering the honest uniqueness they can bring out as well. While the band doesn't really bring the freshest ideas to the table, it's clear that they know the genres they play in VERY well. In the album, you'll hear hints of Iron Maiden, Metallica, Helloween, Judas Priest, and occasionally Slayer (mainly on the speed metal end of things). Even when Wolf take these influences, they add their own little touch, especially in the lyrical department. Many of the lyrics convey psychological terror, nightmares, and all-out darkness. There are some fantasy elements akin to Iron Maiden, but Wolf usually manage to add a darker sound and message.
All the members of the band play out their strengths extremely well. Niklas Stalvind and Johannes Losback churn out their guitar harmonies with frightening speed and precision, while Stalvind is able to keep quite a good arsenal of vocal techniques to keep everything fresh on the frontlines. The bass isn't always heard a great deal, but when it is, it is H-E-A-V-Y! In the track "At the Graveyard," the ending of the song contains a section of pure brutal distortion while the vocal harmonies are layered over the sound, and it works very effectively. The drums are of the typical speed metal variety, but there are some nice fills scattered about to heighten the listener's level of interest.
While there are a lot of highlights on the album, I'd have to give a nod to "The Bite," Seize the Night," and "Steelwinged Savage Reaper." "The Bite" starts off with a typical-yet-no-frills riff that speeds through rather quickly, but the highlight is with the 6/8 interlude in the middle. The vocals here are especially dramatic and emotional, speaking of how the days simply go by and how our protagonist continually waits for the night to come. "Seize the Night" (maybe a play on Carpe Diem?) has a rather explosive chorus that contains that mixture of low-end power and melody I mentioned, as well as one of the catchiest choruses on the whole record. "Steelwinged Savage Reaper" is more in the speed metal vein, and has slight elements of what a cross between Slayer and Iron Maiden might sound like. The whole song blazes right through your stereo, with dark-yet-fun lyrics about Death and... well... the Grim Reaper being fast on your tail, I guess.
What about the flaws? I guess the biggest flaw is that the songs can really run together after a while; thus by the time the seventh track, "The Dead" comes on, you feel a little bit tired of the experience. Some of the songs feel like overly familiar rehashes of better tracks on the album. For instance, "Demon" simply sounds like a more-harmonized (if that makes sense) version of "I Will Kill Again," but the latter makes much more of a lasting impression. Additionally, some of the tracks get a tad lazy with the instrumentation. Album closer "Children of the Black Flame" simply plods along as if it has no real purpose, and the track rehashes the guitar work of previous songs, but in a slower way, and it simply gets a bit boring.
Either way, the album is a great salute to the old bands of 80's metal, and it goes to show that this old era of metal may not be in the coffin just yet. Get this as soon as you can.
For the album, Wolf was:
Niklas Stålvind - Guitar & Lead vocals
Johannes Losbäck - Guitar & Backing vocals
Mikael Goding - Bass guitar
Tobias Kellgren - Drums