ALBUM OF THE DAY: WOLF, THE BLACK FLAME
I love this band. I love this band so much. Every time I see the word “wolf” in music magazines or hear it on whatever station I’m listening to, my heart thuds until “mother” inevitably follows suit. I don’t care for Wolfmother — they’re fine for faking music in Rockband — but if you want real metal (for “true bastards” — their words, not mine), Wolf is it.
The first time I listened to The Black Flame, it was a pretty epic moment. My family decided that a cruise was in order, because what easier way to
kill bond with fourteen members of your family than getting trapped on a boat for two weeks? Now, the Ford family is pretty cool, so the regular, boring Caribbean cruise was out of the question. Plus, we hate hot weather and, uh, other people. So our cruise was on a small ship that sailed around the coast of Norway. I stocked up on a lot of music.
I listened to this album out on the deck, in the pitch-black night, while the Baltic Sea rocked everyone else into seasick submission. I win.
They sound like they could’ve been amongst the NWOBHM bands, but somehow more. More speed, more thrash, more excitement. Plus, they’re Swedish. Wolf’s self-titled debut album came out in 2000, and they did fairly well supporting it on the festival circuit along with 2002’s Black Wings. But it wasn’t until 2004’s Evil Star that they started getting really noticed. The single, “Wolf’s Blood,” with it’s Mercyful-Fate-meets-Iron-Maiden-in-Sweden-on-a-rather-chilly-night sound, got them airplay around the world. It’s also my second favorite album of theirs. Ravenous was released in 2009, but The Black Flame (2005) is Wolf at their best.
Everything about The Black Flame is good. From the Castlevania-like intro to, “Make Friend With Your Nightmares,” to the merciless, pounding rhythm of “The Bite,” to the melodic harmonizing of “I Will Kill Again,” The Black Flame is catchy, blood-pumping, pure heavy metal joy. Singer Niklas “Stålvind” Olsson’s voice finally finds its stride with this album; he doesn’t force the high notes, but they’re definitely not lacking, either. The success of this album also brought them to the States, WHICH I MISSED, and am still kicking myself for to this day. Forget that I’ll never see Dio live (which also makes me sad), but there will be hell to pay if I never see Wolf. Judging by the lackluster response of the audience, though (I have eyewitness reports because I FUCKING MISSED IT, GODDAMNIT), I don’t know when they’ll next cross the Atlantic. Stupid New England Metalfest. You give me equal parts joy and grief. Actually no, it’s more like 30%/70% joy/grief.
“The Dead” is just straightforward thrash, but it’s got a classic Wolf chorus that’s the most chant-worthy, scream-along-to thing you can possibly imagine. It’s like they’re writing specifically for fist-pump happy people. Okay, I might not be such a person (at least not sober), but I do appreciate the sentiment. And “Steelwinged Savage Reaper,” is exactly what Judas Priest would sound like if they dabbled in power metal with a straight singer. (No, Ripper doesn’t count. We might share a birthday, but that’s all the recognition I’ll ever give him.)
I’m listening to The Black Flame right now, and IT’S SO GOOD. That’s it, they win my on-going “What band shall I use as a back patch on this new vest?” competition. That’s actually a good description of Wolf; they’re a classic denim and leather back patch band. Sorry, Ensiferum, time to retire you.