I remember these guys from the very start of their career. Back in 1999, when I received a promo of their self-titled debut from No Fashion Records, it was a big surprise to listen to a classic old school heavy meal album in times when the style was still in knock-down. Maybe nowadays it would be hard for our younger readers to imagine it, but back in the mid-to-late nineties, only Iced Earth, Running Wild, Grave Digger and Blind Guardian were still relevant in the scene, with HammerFall, Stratovarius and Rhapsody only starting to raise a renewed attention to the genre. Since then, Wolf have released seven more albums, with their 9th full length – Shadowland – coming out this Friday.
Only frontman and guitar player Niklas Stålvind has remained from the debut album line-up, with Simon Johansson (Memory Garden) joining on guitar in 2011 and Pontus Egberg (bass, King Diamond) and Johan Koleberg (drums, ex-HammerFall, ex-Therion) forming Wolf’s rhythm section for the last 3 years. Shadowland is the second album recorded with this line-up and the band sounds as confident and as inspired as ever. Dust opens proceedings with typical, riff-oriented heavy metal, built upon a melodic foundation, not too far from what Mercyful Fate are so loved for. In fact, the dark aura of Wolf’s sound and lyrics are also really close to their fellow countrymen Ram, if we have to give a reference point here.
Visions Of The Blind, Seek The Silence or the riff-fest title track are representative of all the strengths of Wolf throughout their career – charismatic vocals, catchy choruses and headbangable guitar riffs from the classic school of Judas Priest. Just listen to Exit Sign – it’s a total hymn, nothing less. The fantastic, more uptempo song Trial By Fire (not a Satan cover!), with probably the best solos in the album, is surprisingly chosen as a bonus track over the weaker Into The Black Hole, but that’s not a reason to complain – just get the limited edition, haha. Some good words should be written about the stellar production and mixing job by Simon Johansson and the cover artwork, which once again is a nod towards Mercyful Fate.
Wrapping this up, if classic heavy metal with very strong guitars and a touch of darkness is your thing, then look no further than Shadowland. Wolf have once again remained true to what we respect and love them for and delivered a metal highlight, which deserves a place in every collection.
You can order Shadowland from HERE