Wolf has been running at the forefront of the retro metal pack for a while now, surpassing even the vainglorious cheese meisters of Hammerfall. They’ve done so with slick, memorable song writing and a healthy respect for their elders like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Mercyful Fate. Although they’re utterly devoid of originality or new influences, they’ve been uncannily skilled at aping and raping the past for golden metal moments of steel. 2011s Legions of Bastards had a strong Painkiller vibe, but Devil Seed slows things down and adopts a darker, more restive, simmering mood, like a filthy mob of commoners perpetually on the verge of rioting against the haughty upper crust. Regardless of the speed, it’s 110% classic metal through and through, well crafted, catchy and loaded with anthems to the studded fist of precious metal.
To appease the ancient Metal Godz, they open with a riff-tastic instrumental with the charming name of “Overture in C Shark.” It’s quite cracking and sets the mood for opening number “Shark Attack” (yes, it’s Shark Week at Camp Wolf). It’s another of their Painkiller homages that smokes and rages with vintage charm and though it’s simple and dumb, the chorus and accompanying riffs are all but irresistible, as is the very Mercyful Fate-esque solo. From there we get another profile in serial killerhood with “Skeleton Woman,” which is an album standout and packs a lot of hooks into a song about a man putting women on hooks. In all honestly, they sing about this very topic so much that I’m forced to question the mental hygiene of the chap writing the lyrics.
Other stellar moments include the rabble rousing and punchy “Back From the Grave,” which is a scorching rocker with nonstop energy and a joyful swagger; and “River Everlost” which is more moody and very reminiscent of vintage Tad Morose, especially the vocals which strongly recall the glory days of Urban Breed. Even the uber simple, borderline generic “My Demon” sticks in the head due to a winning chorus.
The more laid back numbers like “Surgeons of Lobotomy” (ESL semi-fail) and “The Dark Passenger” (serial killers again) also work well and benefit from an ominous edginess that makes a suitable substitute for speed and urgency.
Of the eleven tracks, only “Frozen” feels a bit underdone, but even this is lifted by a boatload of nifty guitar harmonies and sweet solos that ooze metal cred. At a tight 47 minutes, the album feels quick and dirty and doesn’t overstay its welcome like a hectoring mother-in-law. That’s surely a welcome change of pace in this era of overblown, ego-driven musical statements.
More so than ever, the guitar lines and harmonies steal the show here and give the listener plenty of reasons to park the carcass and air noodle along. Niklas Stalvind and new addition Simon Johansson (Memory Garden, Bibleblack) deliver the anthemic, arena metal goodies and do their own take on the classic Downing / Tipton dual axe attack. On tunes like “I Am Pain” and “Frozen” they uncork one slick solo and harmony after another, many obviously influenced by Maiden or Mercyful Fate, but who cares when they sound so damn good. Stalvind’s vocal delivery is good as always and this time he’s backed away from the Halford-isms in favor or more Urban Breed-isms, and his raspy, throaty delivery is effective and satisfying. He does his best work on “Skeleton Woman” where he shifts gears several times to convey varying emotions and the man just knows how to sell a song.
Wolf is very good at what they do and Devil Seed is a very easy, engaging listen chocked full of melody and major metal attitude. It’s pretty brainless at times, but a lot of the best metal is. Now get your ass to Camp Wolf and run with the sharks or do crafts or some fucking thing.