Wolf // Legions of Bastards
Rating: 3.5/5.0 —Never graduating from the old school.
Label: Century Media
Websites: www.wolf.nu | myspace.com/wolfheavymetal
Release Dates: EU: 2011.04.25 | US: 04.26.2011
The retro metal wolf is at the door again. The lupus I refer to is Sweden’s own Wolf, the one that’s been churning out their NWOBHM meets Mercyful Fate meets power metal style since 2000 and resisting all signs of modernizing along the way. Well, color them consistent because here on Legions of Bastards, their sixth album, they remain firmly planted in the 80’s metal sound and mentality. While retro-come-lately acts like Enforcer, Bloodbound and Steelwing made their bones raping the musical carcass of the 80’s, they’re all getting seriously sloppy seconds since Wolf got there first, many years ago. Past albums have been fun, energetic nods of the old school gods like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden and here on Legions, the retro hero-worship continues unabated. This is 110% shameless throwback metal with enough over-the-top guitar soloing, vocal wailing and cheesy metal cliches to make Spinal Tap consider a career in disco. It’s more fun than a barrel full of Charlie Sheens and just about as subtle. If any part of you is a forward-looking progressive who wants to stop living in the past, this is very much not the band or album for you. As for me, I thrive on old timey metal cheese so this is right in my personal (cheese) wheelhouse. Set the time machine to 1986, raise the horns and read on if you dare.
I suppose the quickest way to explain what to expect from Legions of Bastards is to say if you liked Judas Priest‘s Painkiller album, I’d bet ten to one odds you’ll like this too. This time out Wolf adopted a heavier, edgier more aggressive style that will remind many of that timeless Priest classic. Starting with opener “Vicious Companions” the comparison is pretty easy. It’s a quick, testosterone fueled metal attack with big, catchy riffs and even bigger solos that scream METAL with every noodled note. As if trying to remove any doubt about Wolf‘s influences, Niklas Stalvind adopts a more raspy, screechy vocal style for much of the album and he sounds more like Painkiller-era Halford than he ever did before. This song is simple, memorable head banging fun from start to finish with a big chorus followed by the kind of dual guitar riffing and soloing that makes old timers like me smile from ear to ear (especially at 1:56 forward). After that, the old school beating continue until Wolf makes sure you get the point. “Skull Crusher” features more Painkiller themed uber metal and “Full Moon Possession” brings in a bit of Iron Maiden style riffing as well to change up the Priest love-o-thon (great soloing ensues). Elsewhere you get an enormously catchy chorus during “Jekyll & Hyde” (which could be a continuation of “The Ripper” by you guessed it, Judas Priest), the storming, hard charging “Road to Hell” where Stalvind sounds a lot like Urban Breed (ex-Tad Morose, ex-Bloodbound) and the creepy cool “Hope to Die” which has a chorus that sticks in your head like it or not. Pretty much every song has its vocal and/or guitar high point that makes it worthwhile, enjoyable and memorable.
As with past Wolf albums, this is a classic metal guitar extravaganza featuring every conceivable 80’s flavored riff, solo and squeal. Stalvind and Johannes Losback really dig deep on Legions and deliver a lot of pure molten metal fret gymnastics. Check out the crunching riff in “Skull Crusher” and the solos in “Tales From the Crypt” and “Road to Hell.” Likewise, Stalvind’s much more fierce, in your face vocals impressed me this time out. Channeling Halford is never a bad idea and he even works in some King Diamond as well just for kicks.
Wolf has uncorked a raucous set of low brow, vintage metal tunes that are fun as fuck to blast and rock out to. Not thinking man’s metal, not original or progressive in any way, just balls to the wall guitar driven metal done with an ear to the 80’s. You don’t even need to be a retro head to enjoy this. It’s addictive, catchy and hard to resist, try as you might. Let Wolf in the door but don’t take them too seriously or you’ll ruin the good times just like Red Riding Hood always did.