Wolf – Devil Seed (Century Media)

Sunday, 3rd August 2014
Rating: 7/10

Fortunate to gain appreciation on the ground floor from their self-titled debut album back in 1999 during my Snakepit magazine co-editor days, Sweden’s Wolf has been a long-running traditional metal favorite in my sound system. Rising from No Fashion Records to Century Media by 2006’s fourth album The Black Flame, guitarist/vocalist Niklas ‘Viper’ Stålvind remains the only constant from the quartet’s early days. Moving forward to their seventh full-length Devil Seed it’s obvious they are comfortable in their own musical skin, and one wonders if they can continue to produce high quality ripping riffs and chilling melodies that scream for the Iron Maiden meets Mercyful Fate heights a la the 1980’s.

The “Overture in C Shark” instrumental that opens the record is a decent surprise, a swirling affair that chugs along at a pace sure to induce fist pumps and football chants all along European shores, the minor harmonies and echoing guitar refrain the type to reverberate for days in the old cranium. “Shark Attack” explodes next, Niklas hitting peak scream mode during its chorus while striking stealthily in measured mode for the verses as drummer Richard ‘Raptor’ Holmgren puts down an addictive mid-tempo snare stomp.

The remaining 9 songs do feature occasional newer nuances to the Wolf trademark guitar, bass, drum and vocal template. Spacey keyboards and flamenco guitar becomes prominent in “Skeleton Woman,” while a touch of Celtic guitar melodies float throughout “I Am Pain,” but I don’t think these elements ever displace the straightforward electric power rhythms, pumping low bass runs, or energetic drumming that has catapulted Wolf in the traditional metal genre. You can expect lead breaks in the Priest-like “Back from the Grave” from Simon Johansson and Niklas that possess measured thought, insight, and proper texture, far beyond the normal ‘shred’ scope younger musicians find fascinating.

The second half of the album outshines the first half (check out the double salvo of “The Dark Passenger” and exotic Middle Eastern twists for “River Everlost”), possibly due to Wolf staying a little too much in the mid-tempo pocket without really grabbing the brass hook ring or melody that make “Venom” from Black Wings or “Skullcrusher” from Legions of Bastards perennial favorites. And I love the skull meets sperm cover theme that should serve as shop talk at merch stands wherever the band tours this coming year.

Howling like the wind, Devil Seed may not be the best Wolf effort, but there are at least a few decent tracks that make you grab denim and leather, a six pack, and rock again like your teenage years.

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