Whether you like it or not, Bad Wolves aren’t the next big thing. That’s because they’re already the current new big thing in metal. Thrust into the spotlight by a set of serendipitous circumstances surrounding their recording of The Cranberries ‘Zombie’, a version that Dolores O’Riordan herself was scheduled to record vocals for the week that she passed as part of her endorsement of the song, Disobey (Eleven Seven) is a multi-faceted contemporary, very heavy, yet commercial album that does a whole lot more than the frankly excellent cover version might suggest you should expect.
The brainchild of former Devildriver sticksman John Boecklin and Divine Heresy lungs Tommy Vext (who recently filled in for Ivan Moody in Five Finger Death Punch during his hiatus from touring), Bad Wolves have, whether by dint of the combined experience of its members – the band is made up of Doc Coyle from God Forbid, Chris Cain (Bury Your Dead) and Kyle Konkiel (In This Moment) – or by means of the vision of its main protagonists (and common sense would suggest we’re looking at a slice of one and a bite of the other), arrived fully formed with a sound and style that is not only right on the zeitgeist, but in addition, are armed with a songcraft and professionalism that escapes most of their peers.
The right band, in the right place, at the right time, yes, but believe me, Bad Wolves also have the right album, which (and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise) is the most important facet of all.
Confident enough in themselves to explore plenty of space in and around a central sound that could lazily be described as Tech Metal does Mainstream, albeit with more layers and intricacies than that suggests, Bad Wolves have spread their wings to unveil a span of ideas that come fully realized. As the thirteen tracks spin by you come to appreciate that ‘Zombie’, eternal rock club anthem that it will now be, is just a small part of why Disobey will ensnare so many willing disciples. In fact, ‘Zombie’ is probably a non-essential part of the album’s success, merely the cherry on the top… and a mighty fine cherry it is, indeed, but the cake beneath it is well worth the calories.
The riffs are taut, tight, technical, wiry and substantial, the down tuned chuds booming in and landing like a gut-punch. Bad Wolves have already mastered an art that has escaped so many; that of marrying technical and rhythmic heaviness with actual songs, and in doing so, even while acknowledging the breadth on display, creating a distinct identity, and the highlights are many and varied.
Opener ‘Officer Down’ follows that most eternal of metal tropes of launching an album with heaviness and bluster, yet there is still a sufficient hook, ‘No Masters’ is a neck-snapping lurch that nods to Korn but with the weight of a behemoth, ‘Jesus Slaves’ is a funky riot that highlights Konkiel’s four-string importance to the overall sound and that wouldn’t be out of place on Album of the Year, the chaotic blasting closer of ‘Toast To The Ghost’ splices Death Metal battery with mainstream catchiness, while ‘Learn To Live’ djents and stutters in a spasmodic rhythm that gives way to stomping mid-section.
Interestingly, where Bad Wolves really come into their own is with the more reflective numbers, ‘Remember When’ and ‘Hear Me Now’ are moments of class and gravitas and radio anthems to come, not a million miles away from a ‘Remember Everything’ by Five Finger Death Punch as Vext grows into the album, his role getting bigger and better as the album develops – part Moody, part Andy Biersack – but wholly in control of each song whether spitting growls or crooning.
There’s always plenty of talk around who the next “big band” is going to be, and here we have the arrival of Bad Wolves, fully developed yet ripe and hungry and catapulted straight into the A-leagues. It’s a good job Disobey has the chops to keep them there, then.