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Trucking along - 81%

Empyreal, January 23rd, 2023

Wolf had one knockout of an album with The Black Flame back in 2006 - the other ones since then have been good but not at that same level. The Black Flame just seemed to get everything right, with a massive heavy guitar tone, earthquake-seismic riffage, screaming, hooky choruses. A minor metal classic. I like that Wolf have not rested on their laurels and have tried to differentiate their sound in little ways since then, with this album having some longer tracks than last time out, some more elaborate soloing and riffing sections. But even so, I can’t say albums like Shadowland are classic-level stuff.

The style is good old stripped down heavy metal. Crunchy riffs with enough venom to be a soundtrack to a shitty day, a sneering, idiosyncratic vocal presence that you’d recognize three rooms over from shitty speakers, a general sense of strident, thrusting leads and ass-kicking drums. The band doesn’t have one specific influence - it’s just good old fashioned metal, the musical equivalent of a cheap domestic beer in a comfortable dive bar. It's comfort food, reminding you what you always liked about this style. The band always sounds energized and they just power out some solid tunes. The production is clear and bright but still mean enough. I like that they aren’t using a bunch of digital effects. There’s always a charm to bands doing this kind of back to basics shit this well.

This album is about as good as the last one Feeding the Machine - a bunch of solid B-level heavy metal, entertaining and delivered with conviction, if nothing really gripping. There aren’t a lot of true classic tunes on here. Opener “Dust” is a pulsating number with some careening leads and “Visions for the Blind” and “The Time Machine” are more studious and complex than you’d expect - good shit. The best song by quite a large margin has to be “The Ill-Fated Mr. Mordrake” just by virtue of having the hardest riff and the most lethal chorus on display - that’s how you measure stuff this simple; it’s just by virtue of what gets the blood pumping the most.

The rest can be a bit hit or miss, never truly missing but there are a few rimshots. Some of the songs tend to have cool riffs but then the choruses are a little dull, just the song title moaned a few times over - the title song, “Seek the Silence,” “Rasputin” - good stuff if not really gripping. They could’ve added more weight to the hooks.

But this is a solid album. If you want a workout of meat and potatoes heavy metal, Wolf has your number.