Monday 22 August 2022

Wolfsbane - Genius (2022)

Country: UK
Style: Heavy Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 5 Jun 2022
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For all that Wolfsbane are a heavy metal band and I'm not arguing against that in the slightest, it has to be said that they don't sound like most, if any, of their peers. They didn't when the eighties were ending on their debut album and, if anything, they're even further apart from the norm now on their first studio album in ten years and fifth overall. The easiest way to describe this is to call it simply another Wolfsbane album. If you know what that sounds like, you're already golden. If you don't, then check it out.

They're an unusual band in that it's hard to define their sound by comparing them to others, but I think everything is fundamentally based in the seventies, whether any particular song owes more to Thin Lizzy or the Ramones or the New York Dolls. I heard each of those bands on multiple tracks here. However, they build on that with more modern sounds, whether that's alternative rock, pop punk, glam rock or some other genre, whatever might be vibrant and energetic enough to make a song feel even more like it was spontaneously jammed on the spot.

It's as much in their attitude as their music, because this is a band who feel like they're here to be entertained as much as to entertain. Maybe the two things are the same to them. They seem to be primarily having fun and only secondarily actually playing music, so there's a constant feeling that everything might go horribly off the rails in about three seconds time. Every song has to be a first take, right? Of course, it never falls apart because these four musicians are so highly capable and they know each other so well that this somehow ends up loose and tight at the same time.

Blaze Bayley actually sounds less like Bruce Dickinson now after his five year and two album stint as the Air Raid Siren's replacement in Iron Maiden than he did back in 1990 on one of my favourite Wolfsbane songs, All Hell's Breaking Loose Down at Little Kathy Wilson's Place. He's maintaining a solo career nowadays on top of fronting Wolfsbane and his fifth solo album, War Within Me last year was excellent. It didn't sound like this, though, because much of this band's sound is found in the guitarwork of Jase Edwards, who never seems to do what anyone else would at any given spot. He always has his own ideas about what to do instead and he's usually right.

And that means that a song like Rock the Boat, with its heavy staccato riffing that takes it from a somewhat Meshuggah level to Bauhaus, can be followed by a mainstream alternative rock song such as Small Town Kisses that's almost the Foo Fighters covering Thin Lizzy. And hey, both of them can be followed by the nearly rockabilly vibe of Things are Getting Better. Rock City Nights is straight ahead glam punk that ends up in Sex Pistols territory. I Was Born in '69 is even a ballad, I guess, but one that doesn't feel out of place in this company.

What's important is that all of these different sounds feel natural together because every one of them is connected by its live in the studio energy. Opener Spit It Out is surely the most energetic song on offer when it's in full motion, but there's plenty more to spare for the other nine tracks. I know these guys aren't young because they're older than I am and I'm not young, but this feels as if it was recorded by eighteen year olds eager to show the world what they can do. Respect to the band for that and welcome back! It's been a while.

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