Wolf – Shadowlands Review

Wolf have been a reliably entertaining throwback metal act since they first hit the scene back in 1999. Led by vocalist/guitarist Niklas Stålvind, the band successfully integrated NWoBHM basics with elements of Euro-power, giving them a wealth of excitable elements to throw at the wall and make stick. And albums like Evil StarThe Black Flame, and Legions of Bastards found them getting very sticky indeed, making those platters especially fun to rock out with. Even their lesser releases were guaranteed to offer a handful of playlist-worthy metal anthems. That said, 2020s Feeding the Machine saw them attempt a style shift that didn’t completely work, resulting in my least favorite outing from them. It seems the band didn’t love the results either, as ninth album Shadowlands is a shift back to what’s always worked for them — crafting punchy, adrenalized heavy metal ditties with as many hooks as they could weld onto the superstructure. Though some of the material here was originally intended for a solo project for Stålvind, this is the classic Wolf offering, not far removed from their Evil Star days. This means plenty of powerful, uptempo songs sitting someplace between Judas Priest‘s Painkiller era and vintage Mercyful Fate, with the band making close friends with metallic excess and spray cheese all the while. It’s nothing new, but it’s plenty fun.

As soon as opener “Dust” kicks off, you know Wolf is back in the hunt and hungry for flesh. Biting riffs tear at you and Stålvind’s vocals sound like a creepier version of the late Mike Howe. The chorus is a winner, the NWoBHM influence is upfront and in-your-face and the riffage is tasty. Cuts like “Evil Lives” are why I keep running with these wolves, providing one of the more enjoyable classic metal fist-pumpers this year not appearing on Satan‘s Earth Infernal. Also impressive is “The Ill-Fated Mr. Mordrake,” which is full of dark, crunching riffs and simmering menace. The way Stålvind intones “Edward! Edward!” really gets to me and Madam X is already quite tired of me walking around trying my best to duplicate it whilst striking dramatic metal poses. This one is a keeper for sure!

Other toothy gems include the punchy, brooding “Seek the Silence” and the hooky “Into the Black Hole,” both taking basic song structures and embellishing them with slick guitar work and vocal moments that stay with you. The big selling point for Shadowlands is how consistently entertaining it is. The only cut that doesn’t fry my circuits is the title track, which is okay but less addictive than its companions. Could I quibble that the otherwise rocking “Rasputin” runs about a minute too long? Sure. Might I opine that “The Time Machine” could also use trimming? Also sure, but the 48-minute runtime feels easy and Shadowlands is certainly not a chore to get through. Quite the opposite actually. I just keep respinning it.

While I felt there was a deficit in passion on the last album, Niklas Stålvind and co sound completely revitalized and pissed off here. The guitar-work from Stålvind and Simon Johansson (Memory Garden) is fraught with jangly edges and burly crunch. There are a large number of riffs and harmonies that leap out at you and make you want to bash your skull against the wall, and that’s what we all come here for. Stålvind’s vocals are unhinged and manic in all the ways I appreciate, and he sounds overly caffeinated and ready to rumble on every track. I especially like how he sounds more and more like Mike Howe’s evil twin as he gets older. The whole band is in top form and the music really slaps.1

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Wolf after their less-than-inspired 2020 showing, but I’m happy to hear them back in the groove and seeking fresh prey. Shadowlands shows they can still burn the house down when it suits them and they’re still capable of crafting an album’s worth of classic metal tunes that get my aged blood angry. If you want a high-voltage weekend of NWoBHM madness, this would make a lovely companion piece to the new Satan platter. Yes, we do beer, food and Satanic pairings now at AMG. Bon appetit.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Century Media
Websites: wolf.nu | facebook.com/officialwolf
Releases Worldwide: April 1st, 2022

Show 1 footnote

  1. Insert awful Will Smith joke here.
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