Monday 13 March 2023

Wig Wam - Out of the Dark (2023)

Country: Norway
Style: Glam Rock/Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 10 Feb 2023
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I mentioned last time out, when I reviewed Wig Wam's reformation album, Never Say Die, that the band had heavied up and that was a change that I firmly appreciated. Well, it seems that they are still heavying up and I'm definitely not complaining. This is still hard rock rather than heavy metal, but the opening title track runs pretty close to the elusive border between the two, closer than I'd say they've ever been. The heaviness is mostly in Teeny's guitars, but the rhythm section backs him up emphatically. That continues, most obviously on Uppercut Shazam and a little less so on High n Dry, but it never really goes away even on the most overt ballad, The Purpose.

The glam roots of Wig Wam show in a number of different ways. Forevermore is a lower key stalker that builds through a singalong glam chorus. Bad Luck Chuck adds in some southern rock and some old school sleaze, before finding a ruthless AC/DC-esque drive. Ghosting You swaggers the way we might expect Wig Wam to swagger and there's plenty of their patented glam stomp. Just to play a bit more with those alliterative movements, the closer, Sailor and the Desert Sun includes a neat middle eastern flavour, so that one sways. The bottom line is that we generally want to move when we're listening to Wig Wam.

There are odd songs that do something completely different and I liked all of those. The Purpose is a ballad, I guess, given that it's notably softer than anything else here and it gives far more of the focus to vocalist Glam. It builds substantially, but never to the point where it could be compared to the heavier material here. It's always the ballad, just not as soft as we might expect. 79 is a guitar instrumental that feels like it waltzed in from an instrumental album. It's a tasty piece, a lot more akin to something Gary Moore might have recorded than, say, a Vai or a Satriani, let alone Yngwie Malmsteen.

Mostly, though, this is just a heavier take on glam rock with chunkier riffs, heavier production and all those glam elements layered over the top. However close to metal it gets, and let's face it, it's over that line on Uppercut Shazam, with razorblades in Teeny's guitar riffs that we might expect from Megadeth, we're never far from a strong hook or a singalong chorus. They're merely laid over chunkier grounding as if this has to be played louder than you're playing it. However old you are or aren't, do you remember that magic first gig when you discovered that soft rock bands aren't so soft on stage as they are on record? It seems to me that this is rather like coming back to the record and not finding it softer at all.

As much I appreciate this everything louder than everything else approach that Wig Wam seem to be firmly moving into, I'd suggest that Out of the Dark, their sixth album, is just as good as Never Say Die, their fifth, which I reviewed a couple of years ago, but no better beyond the crunch. There are still standout songs, like Out of the Dark and Ghosting You, whose lyrics talk about Vanilla Ice for some reason, but most of the album is a notch down from that level, still strong but nothing a certain superhero show would leap at. That material came a little in their career. I wouldn't raise complaints if I heard Uppercut Shazam on the next season of The Boys, but I don't expect it.

And so I wonder how this will fare in the marketplace. Sure, it's heavier, but it's still Wig Wam and I'd expect their fanbase to stay with them, whether they adore the new punchiness or bitch about how they didn't used to need it. Will it bring in anyone new? Maybe. This is all decent stuff, no bad songs among the eleven on offer and the weakest still pretty solid. Maybe it'll be a gateway to the fans of heavier music who might have looked past Wig Wam in the past, even if I don't expect them to acquire a page on Metal Archives quite yet. Time will tell. I'm interested in what they'll do next.

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