BY STEVE WALKER | Go Venue Magazine
To follow their 2018 debut album release of “Disobey”, Bad Wolves have returned from the studio with a 12 track album titled; N.A.T.I.O.N. The band have exploded onto the scene with an instant global presence and the success has provided scope to refine the style and direction. Last year was opportunity to showcase their output at Download Festival in the UK alongside, Fort Rock and whilst supporting Papa Roach on tour. The premises and themes underpinning the the album is varied and makes a clear attempt to draw every discernible sub-group based upon a range of broad interests and styles into the Bad Wolves pack. Trump and politics is given a mention, personal addiction-relationships are highlighted, Economics, Anarchy, Intra-personal angst, New beginnings; Love, Loss, Repair; pretty much everything they had to throw at it.
The ideation of supergroups is always pre-emptied by the forthcoming categorization into silos and so this review will make attempt to review and critique the band and album based upon their 2018 debut release ‘Disobey’ and their 2019 developed release N.A.T.I.O.N. That said, their collective history gives us influences of ‘Divine Heresy’, ‘Snot’, ‘Westfield Massacre’, ‘DevilDriver’, ‘God Forbid’, ‘Bury Your Dead’, ‘For the Fallen Dreams’, ‘In This Moment’, ‘Scar the Martyr’. With such a broad range of backgrounds in the industry, there are album inputs that draw from each and every corner of the experience and knowledge universe that the band have to create one of the most diverse and impressive albums in the past 15 years.
There are three tracks available as pre-releases; ‘I’ll Be There’ the full strength howling magnifico opener for the album, ‘Killing Me Slowly’ a self-reflective relational expose with balanced weight of dark and light in appropriate measure using thematic riffs to stir the listener. ‘Sober’ the melodic track that features a vocal of real quality. Documenting the personal journey of Tommy Vext and the challenges of addiction and the affects on life and relationships. It could be argued that this track is the bands follow up to the success of ‘Zombie’ the Cranberries cover, that up until now has over-shadowed their own work so far – this is the turning point if advantage is taken of this key feature of what Bad Wolves can put together. Being in the genre but doing not what is expected can bring very good results!
‘No Messiah’ uses a variety of textures and has one of the most competent and fluid transitions to harmonic vocal I have come across in years, the Linkin Park feel is sustained and the approach is a credit to the hours of production and retake to create a tone and style that will nostalgically appeal to audiences. The subtle Pantera feel punches through in the verses and raises a smile and retro nod to the classics that pin the contemporary scene. At the mid point the track drops to instrumental and reintroduces the powerful bridge and fiery conclusion with all the energy needed to lift a live audience into frenzy.
‘Learn To Walk Again’ stands out in the refrain, shows and gives the fluidity and an instrumental section that is loaded with influences from early hard rock to contemporary alt-rock feel. This track lyrically is the connector, the bridge between band and audience; with an essence of 80’s rock anthem with ascending scale riffing with Van Halen-esque bends on the 12th to 15th fret.
‘Better Off This Way’ with echoed acoustic introduction, places the vocal at forefront of the track, undertones of instrumentation give elevation from the mid-point of the track. The teenage to middle aged angst is presented impressively to frame the content. Reflective, open and musically aligned to reduce hate and secure self, notes the title and repair of relationships lost.
‘Foe or Friend’ the album marching theme in the refrain section, a pit favorite well sourced for the festival ground with staccato vocal and rock-rap style to match the nuances in the contemporary scene. The raging vocal forces delivery and the level of power generated with intent is both believable and showcases the Bad Wolves range across genres.
‘Back In The Days’ Provides an ongoing nostalgia; a look back and drive forwards with a guitar sound that uses old school effect that is possibly a New Wave of American Hard Rock, the influences are rich and drum section carries some Eric Carr from KISS replicated patterns and fills, stunning stuff!
‘The consumerist’ aggressive opening, darker and has a scan of Marilyn Manson and with Slipknot vocal phrasing. The anarchic anti-establishment track forcing issue through the hard rock movement and exploiting the vast range of styles that Bad Wolves can foster. The cry for the anti-consumer and the as the track raises the blind ignorance of the ‘obey and buy’ culture to a counter culture is politically charged and makes the claim for unity.
‘Heaven So Heartless’ applies the industrial shadowed effect in instrumentation to stage a hard rock-funk feel, from drums that filters through bass to the micro-riff on guitar that offers a really dynamic style and flavor. The lead section screams and the underplayed galloping rhythm is quirky and reminiscent of early metal. This album really has a lot to offer!
‘Crying Game’ rocks hard and uses three point guitar stabs to condense the timing, the affect on heartbeat and clearly the most energetic lead section on the album is astonishing and so well leveled against the vocal that the outdo leaves you wanting more.
‘LA Song’ is an interesting close to the album, vocal techniques from rap verse, full force screaming intro and pinched lead and backing vocals to shift octave and pitch. Spoken word is used prior to scream to energize the audience experience.
The production on the album is phenomenal, the opening machine gun guitar scratching on ‘I’ll Be There‘ is flawless and elevates the intro prior to vocal that desecrates the political arena and claims the anarchism that is rife in the sub-cultures embedded in the hard rock scene. The distraction is now part of the mainstream response to the subtle oppression in society and a ‘Nation’. The emphasis of the guitar sound on ‘Sober’ and the complimentary electric lead has been grafted together and I can hear the effort to get this right in the micro-pauses in the studio performance. This smoother element that the band have, should be used more and although the scene demands the harder edged tracks, the strength of the album is in technique and this track is the most solid output. The subtle and yet incredible guitar work is worth the wait in the bridge section and the octave shift that follows adds a dimension and promotes the artistic creativity.
Is the development of this album still to broad? Or does it play into the hands of the many? ‘Disobey’ gave way to the launch with some effective tracks and exploration of five artists coming together, ‘N.A.T.I.O.N.’ however goes further and highlights the ability to use emphasis, there is some lack of direction in the thematics however and the album is potentially two album rushed to release as one? The ideas are contemporary and relevant and some of the tracks are distant to the title in places and there is a flux in themes. But, although it can be argued that the album is a dedicated commercial release for fans and to draw a wider audience, the rules and conformity have been equally smashed to pieces. There is an album full of tracks that the band wanted to put together and it belongs to them and for a Bad Wolves follower, it therefore belongs to the listener. You listen through a wider lens; a more far reaching audio experience full of the unexpected spike and then technical variation – the very early roots of rock and hard rock took no prisoners and the album is free of some constraints and the blended artistry offers a commitment and energy; there are no sleepers on the album, every track is individually valid and is an album worth investing in!
Album pre-order: https://badwolves.ffm.to/nation
Bad Wolves set off on a mammoth US/European Tour on the release date 25th October 2019 through to February 2020 with a massive 55 date run to promote the album and working with Five Finger Death Punch and Megadeth should be an excellent series of shows. More information on the band website.
- Tommy Vext (Lead Vocals)
- Doc Coyle (Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals)
- Chris Cain (Rhythm Guitar)
- Kyle Konkiel (Bass, Backing Vocals)
- John Boecklin (Drums)