Sweden’s Wolf has returned with their ninth album Shadowland. Since we love traditional heavy metal, we investigated.
Back in 2000 when Wolf released their eponymous debut the first thing I thought was crikey, that’s some horrible artwork. However, the Swedes from Örebro compensated with their music, playing a type of traditional metal that somehow fuses the balls to the wall metal of Judas Priest with Mercyful Fate type vibes, somehow creating a sound that is wholly unique. What helps in standing out are Niklas Stålvind’s vocals, which really have a bite to them. The band’s ninth album Shadowland dropped a while ago and once again delivers a collection of great metal songs.
Wolf is at their best when they do short, snappy guitar riffs and Shadowland is full of those. Stuff like Evil Lives and the title track deliver on all fronts, drawing you in with catchy hooks and some excellent soloing. Things don’t get more traditional than this. Wolf understands that you don’t need giant heaps of orchestrations, bells and whistles to make a song interesting, and the bare-bones approach these guys have to making music is as refreshing as it was back in 2000. The ten songs (plus the excellent bonus track Trial by Fire on some versions) are effective in their simplicity and immediacy. There’s no fluff on Shadowland; the band starts out with the massively catchy Dust and delivers punch after punch until either Into the Black Hole or Trial by Fire ends.
Changing up between speedy metal tracks and more mid-tempo fare, Wolf keeps things interesting throughout. Highlights like the enigmatic The Ill-Fated Mr. Mordrake with its middle-eastern soundscapes by more brooding songs like Seek the Silence or The Time Machine, and the variation will keep you invested to the end. The only track that refuses to gel with me personally is Rasputin. It’s full of creepy noises and the way Stålvind snaps the lyrics at you is highly effective, but being sandwiched by the far superior The Ill-Fated Mr. Mordrake and Exit Sign doesn’t help the song shine. Then again, maybe it’s just me.
At the end of the day, Shadowland is what you expect from a band like Wolf; a very traditional heavy metal album full of twin guitar licks, good riffs and an in-your-face sound. The slightly evil undertones still work wonders in giving this old-school sound a bit of an edge and keep things interesting from start to finish. If you’re into some honest, straight heavy metal then Shadowland might very well be your album of the year, and a highlight for traditional metal fans.
Label: Century Media Records, 2022
Buy it here: http://wolf.nu/
- Dust (04:43)
- Visions for the Blind (05:38)
- The Time Machine (06:11)
- Evil Lives (03:34)
- Seek the Silence (05:00)
- Shadowland (04:07)
- The Ill-Fated Mr. Mordrake (05:37)
- Rasputin (04:48)
- Exit Sign (04:21)
- Into the Black Hole (04:38)
- Niklas Stålvind – vocals, guitar
- Simon Johansson – guitar
- Pontus Egberg – bass
- Johan Koleberg – drums
Review by Ralph Plug