Overall Score: 8/10 Lyrics: 8/10 Melodies: 8/10 Riffs: 9/10 Pros: An all guns blazing album of solid original material from start to finish Cons: The genre fusing may not be to the liking of all listeners
Since storming onto the scene with their debut release Disobey back in 2017, Bad Wolves has had an almost picture-perfect meteoric rise to dizzying heights. They’ve played almost all of the bucket-list festivals and supported countless movers and shakers on the scene. It’s the kind of trajectory that bands can surely only dream of having as they attempt to climb the greasy pole that is the music industry in this day and age.
On the surface, they seem like overnight heroes who’ve had it a bit easy but the reality is a long, hard slog for all of the band members. Each member has their own personal story to tell. From failed projects to drama in previous bands, bands coming to their natural end of the road or, being dealt a tough set of cards in the game of life. These guys have experienced everything a musician could possibly experience. Maybe it was fate that brought them together or maybe this was where they were destined to end up all along. The knock-backs and hardships only fueling their desire to make it and to change the game whilst doing so.
And now Bad Wolves return with the follow-up effort – N.A.T.I.O.N – as the quest to continue to elevate their pack begins. No pressure then.
Described by frontman Tommy Vext as like pouring steroids on everything we love about the first record to create an album that’s a roller coaster of emotional experience, Bad Wolves are out to prove they mean serious business, something that’s apparent from the moment I’ll Be There kicks in. It’s pure rollercoaster from the moment an arsenal of guitar scratches and palm-muted shenanigans gather pace with a few pinch harmonics thrown in just because they can. It follows a similar vibe to Learn To Live and Better The Devil from the debut album and it’s neck-breakingly heavy. This track offers one of the albums stand-out and catchiest songs so it’s no surprise that they’ve already released it ahead of the album as a teaser.
But the album doesn’t lose momentum after that. Far from it in fact. No Messiah backs up the album opener with more crunch, seriously groovy riffs and a big sing-a-long chorus that you just know crowds are going to go wild for. This track drops a mega-curve ball as mid-way through the track, the heaviness transitions into a calm, soft interlude section solo section with some piano before building back into heavy territory. It’s great to see Bad Wolves playing with their sound in an almost Periphery like way.
Things get mega-alt rock next in the form of Learn To Walk Again which has drums that sound not dissimilar to Wash It All Away by label-mates Five Finger Death Punch. It’s another absolute banger with lyrics that will surely resonate with many people. It’s powerful and it’s uplifting.
Killing Me Slowly offers the first ballad on the album and gives Vext a chance to really showcase his emotive baritone vocals in all their glory. Soft guitars accompany him as the song builds into a full-band accompaniment complete with an expressive and emotionally charged guitar solo. Sober is the second ballad on the album which ventures into styles similar to the likes of Hinder’s Lips of An Angel and Three Doors Down’s Here Without You. Both ballads are really beautiful songs and we’ve already got our lighters out ready for them.
Back In The Days and Crying Game are further powerful tracks on an album that’s a strong and mature follow-up to their debut. Put it this way, they aren’t doing any half-measures on this – it’s an all or nothing release.
The album closes with a boot to the door level of ferocity in the form of LA Song. It explores some interesting soundscapes starting with a grungy guitar vibe on the intro before transitioning into an all hell breaks loose pedal to the metal affair. Anger-charged knock-out vocals on the verses? Check. Land of the big chorus’? Check. Unexpected breakdown section which ventures into rap? Say what! Bad Wolves just doing Bad Wolves things. References to LA and the Hollywood culture are thrown in across the song. He wants to record but the rent is too high but he keeps rolling anyway. Homage to the journey and obstacles they’ve overcome to get to this point in their career? Quite possibly.
There’s plenty to enjoy on this album and in part that’s due to the bands dabbling and fusing together of multiple styles which surely will broaden their appeal to fans of all genres of Metal/Hard Rock. Put it this way they haven’t limited themselves to a certain box with N.A.T.I.O.N. It’s a varied release and this is what makes it so good. It has a bit of everything but is firmly Bad Wolves carving a road of their own and laying all their cards on the table. It’s like they’ve taken everything from their previous bands and put it through a blender and the result is N.A.T.I.O.N.
At times you’ve got fragments of heavy, heavy Divine Heresy / DevilDriver/Gojira-Esq sounding carnage and next they’re ventured into new-school Papa Roach territory twinned with the rocky flavours of dare we say it, Alter Bridge and Nickelback – sometimes within the same song. Make no mistake though, this isn’t bubblegum MTV stuff – far from it in fact. On paper, this sounds horrific and like a band that hasn’t yet found its identity but this isn’t the case with Bad Wolves. The end result just works really, really well. They’ve got the transitions of the styles absolutely right without comprising their sound which is not something many bands have mastered.
Tommy Vext’s vocal performance on the album is stunning. His ability to jump from rap to roaring harsh vocals to silky smooth ballads is a testament to his vocal prowess. His mastery of styles is commendable and what sets them apart from other bands fighting to be heard in this genre. In a sea of metal bands with clean singers that all sound very similar, Vext’s unique baritone voice cuts through the noise and then some.
The dreaded second album has seen many bands come undone and lose their stride but Bad Wolves has played this one well. This is a ballsy effort and one that cements their place as a band we’re going to see continue to climb the ranks. All whilst they’re still yet to do a UK headline tour of their own might we add(!).
2020 is surely the year of the big bad Bad Wolves. Bad Wolves new album N.A.T.I.O.N is released on the 25th of October on Eleven Seven Music.