Review Summary: Five Finger Death Punch this ain’t.
For those of you who have been living under a rock, Bad Wolves is a fairly newly formed “supergroup” featuring vocalist Tommy Vext (Divine Heresy), guitarists Doc Coyle (God Forbid) and Chris Cain (Bury Your Dead), bassist Kyle Konkiel (VIMIC), and drummer John Boecklin (Devildriver). While each member of the band is clearly no stranger to some degree of success, Bad Wolves have recently achieved a frankly astonishing amount of fame for their cover of The Cranberries’ “Zombie,” which was originally supposed to feature Cranberries vocalist Dolores O’Riordan before her untimely passing earlier this year. The band is currently continuing this success with tours alongside bands including Breaking Benjamin, Nothing More, From Ashes to New, and *holding in vomit* Five Finger Death Punch.
Despite their success, their association with the VERY unappealing current rock scene (specifically you-know-who) soured my opinion of Bad Wolves for the longest time, and I felt like I was doing myself a favor by keeping them at arms length and not checking out their debut album, Disobey. I was only inspired to check this album out because a metalhead friend of mine described the album on social media as “a mix between Meshuggah and Sevendust,” and needless to say, I was a bit thrown off by this description at first. After all, the idea of a band opening on a tour for FIVE FINGER ***ING DEATH PUNCH being even remotely decent is a stretch. Despite this, when I asked my friend to confirm that he wasn’t pulling my leg about Disobey, he reassured me not only that the album was good, but that Bad Wolves was absolutely NOT just a clone of 5FDP. Knowing all of this, I finally gave in and gave Disobey a listen.
All I can say is that, well... it is actually good. I never thought I would say it, but it’s true.
Describing this album in the context of how surprisingly good it is is admittedly pretty difficult, but one word I can use describe this album relative to what I expected from it is “extreme.” The music is extreme, the vocals are extreme, the lyrics are extreme, everything on here is done full-force. Make no mistake, this is wothout question a metal album, and it absolutely has Meshuggah and Sevendust written all over it. This isn’t some half-assed, semi-heavy, butt-metal with laughably overdone production to compensate for any lack of actual substance. It’s a solid, shameless, metal album, and one with some serious balls as well.
Starting with the lyrics on Disobey, they may not be the most artistic, but their dark realism and exploration of many different subjects make it impossible to not take the album seriously. Pretty much any broad dark subject you can think of is discussed on here, including singer Tommy Vext’s personal struggles (“Remember When”), the hypocrisy of organized religion (“Jesus Slaves”, “Toast to the Ghost”), violence toward and by police officers (“Officer Down”), and even self-mutilation and suicide (“Better the Devil”). Aggression and vulgarity is the norm throughout, and “Officer Down” even opens with a racial slur to get the ball rolling. Contrary to what it may seem, these aren’t whiney, Bring Me The Horizon-esque dark lyrics. These are lyrics that carry a lot of weight, and when combined with the atmosphere created by the actual musical aspects of the album, the lyrics on Disobey pack a pretty serious punch that can make you feel a thousand different ways depending on how it hits you.
The overall darkness of this album exists not only because of the lyrics, but also because of what the band actually does when exploring them, and vocalist Tommy Vext is by far the biggest standout in the band. Vext is easily one of the most underrated vocalists in today’s metal scene, and while he’s no Christian Ålvestam, Tommy is an incredibly dynamic vocalist with a huge stage presence and a strong sense of urgency in his voice. The speed, ferocity, and even flow with which he delivers his growles act as a perfect complement to his Benjamin Burnley-esque cleans which blend accessibility and aggression in perfect proportions. Each song gives him a chance to shine and show off the many different vocal inflections he is capable of, and he contributes just as much to album’s heaviness as he does to its dynamicism and accessibility.
The rest of the band as a collective does a pretty solid job as well, and while Disobey is far from being super technical, the band manages to utilize dynamics and impressive heaviness in a way that makes the album pleasing for both modern rockers and metalheads. The abundance of Meshuggah and even Fear Factory influence on here is apparent in everything from the crushing downtuned guitars to the multiple china breakdowns and mechanical rhythmic passages throughout. “Toast to the Ghost” even gives us a little taste of John Boecklin’s blasting, which is a nice touch, even if it is a bit out of place. As far as their management of less in-your-face songs, the band does a pretty good job, although it is very clear that Bad Wolves’ strength is in their heaviness. Still, due to good songwriting and Vext’s cleans, Disobey is very accessible for how heavy it is, and it’s likely that you’ll find yourself hooked on songs like “No Masters” or “Learn to Live” after your first listen. This is an album that I went back to multiple times just because of how much I liked some of the songs I heard, and even if you only listen to it all the way through once, there will definitely be a few songs on here that will stick with you for a while.
Disobey of course isn’t a perfect album, but it suffers from issues that are pretty typical for a debut album. It runs a bit long, for one, and while it doesn’t overstay its welcome too much, there is some superfluous material on here that I believe could have been omitted for the sake of quality. The album keeps its momentum going strong throughout most of its runtime, but there are a few places where it drops the ball and drags a bit. I really wasn’t a big fan of “Run For Your Life,” and while I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad song, “Jesus Slaves” is a track that definitely could have been removed for the sake of consistency. The album, while very good for what it is, shows that Bad Wolves are still a new group of musicians who clearly aren’t lacking in talent or experience, but are still trying to find their footing and figure out exactly what they’re doing. It’s far more hit than miss, and while the misses on this album are of course an issue, they are issues that I fully believe will fix themselves as Bad Wolves continues to create music.
Disobey blew me away me with how heavy and solid it was, and I can definitely say after hearing this that Bad Wolves is a band with a lot of potential. Unfortunately, potential can be a nasty word if it never goes anywhere, and whether Bad Wolves will live up to their potential or fall into Five Finger Death Punch territory, we won’t know until it happens. Still, no matter what, Bad Wolves can now say that they have one solid album under their belt. It may not be perfect, but Disobey is still a fantastic album for what it is, and here’s to hoping that Bad Wolves will build upon it to create even better music in the future.
3.5/5, and bonus points for greatly exceeding my expectations, even as low as they were. If you’re even slightly reluctant to check this out, I beg you, give this album a listen. It isn’t by any means a masterpiece, but it’s definitely on the right track.