Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Swedish Skull Crushers

Wolf – Legions Of Bastards

Century Media – 2011

My fellow Heavy Metal enthusiasts, I am sure you are aware of the New Wave Of Traditional Heavy Metal (NWOTHM.) The NWOTHM tag is essentially a marketing gimmick that was invented by Earache Records in 2009 to categorize all the up and coming traditional metal bands. Bands such as Cauldron, Portrait, White Wizzard, Holy Grail, Armour, Volture, Enforcer, and Skull Fist were all lumped together in the NWOTHM whether they considered themselves part of this group or not.

Long before these bands were put axe to the wax other traditional metal bands soldiered on such as Twisted Tower Dire, Cage, and Widow. Another band that has been playing rib crunching, spine cracking, traditional Metal for years is Wolf from Orebro, Sweden. Imagine the galloping music of Iron Maiden melded with the high pitched vocals of King Diamond and you’ll have a fairly good idea of the band’s sound.

Wolf has been putting out consistently great albums since the release of their eponymous debut in 2000. Their 2004 release Evil Star is a favorite of The Metal Blog Of Metal, the title track a crushing sledge of metallic greatness. Unfortunately, their 2006 follow up The Black Flame, was a letdown with too many average tracks and poor sequencing which resulted in most of the excellent cuts being at the end of the album. Wolf quickly recovered in 2009 with the fantastic Ravenous which featured the superb tracks “Speed On,” “Hail Caesar,” and “Voodoo.”

This year Wolf has blessed the Metal world with Legions Of Bastards and it’s a cracking album of pure chromium plated steel. Picking right up where the last album left off, the band offers up 11 tracks on vinyl, 12 on digital download and standard CD, and 13 on the deluxe digipak CD. Wolf has in no way back loaded this disc; the album kicks off with three hooky burners in “Vicious Companions,” “Skull Crusher,” and “Full Moon Possession.” Any of these three cuts would make a great lead single or video but right now all I can find online is a live performance of “Skull Crusher.” Check it out:

“Jeckyll and Hyde” is a longer multi-tempo track with crushing riffs and a very cool chorus. “Absinthe” is a tribute to everyone’s favorite extract of wormwood, and it will have you banging your head at the 1:40 minute mark. “Tales From The Crypt” is the album's epic centerpiece and features such jolly lyrics as “Tomorrow is just another word for misery.” It’s another fantastic song with noodly Maiden guitar parts. “Nocturnal Rites” starts with an intro similar to either “E5150” or “The Dark” by Black Sabbath and then develops into a mid-paced grinder with sweet, sweet gang vocals in the choruses.

It’s at this point that the album hits a bit of a snag due to poor sequencing. On the digital download and CD the songs “Road To Hell” and “False Preacher” are back to back and both have the same lyrical content – the perils of organized religion. The tracks are actually separated on the vinyl and the album flows much better as a result. Wolf should have followed the vinyl sequencing in other formats or ditched one of these tracks and used it as a bonus song on different versions.

“Hope To Die” is another fast song with strong solos and riffs and lyrics about spooky rituals and the occult. The last track on the vinyl and standard CD is “K-141 Kursk” and deals with the accidental sinking of a Russian submarine and the subsequent death of all hands on board. It’s a decent song but it has a particularly effective outro as the song fades and all that can be heard is a mournful sonar ping. It conjures up visions of doomed submariners waiting to die in the dark as their vessel takes on water.

The Deluxe edition CD features the track “6 Steps” which was the bonus track on the Japanese edition of Ravenous. It’s a mid-paced number with a crunchy guitar tone that lyrically is reminiscent of Maiden’s “Fear Of The Dark.” Both the Deluxe CD and the digital download end with a cover of Metal Church’sMethod To Your Madness.” Wolf is particularly adept at cover songs, and in the past has produced excellent covers of Mercyful Fate, Blue Oyster Cult, Slayer and The Ramones songs. “Method To Your Madness” is no exception and is well worth the listen.

If you can’t decide which version of the album to purchase, I suggest the vinyl because not only do you get a nice piece red vinyl, but you also get the Deluxe Edition of the CD tucked into one of the gatefolds. That’s a very cool way for labels to entice people to purchase vinyl. You can see the pictures of this version at the top of this review.


The Bottom Line: Wolf once again delivers the Metal with Legions Of Bastards and they deserve your support. They were NWOTHM long before the NWOTHM was cool so go out there and buy something from them. Here’s hoping that some day they make it to the States for a tour.


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