For Fans Of
The latter half of the twenty-teens has seen a revival of the heavier, short-haired, downturned riffs of nu-metal influencing other contemporary metal sounds. Bands ranging from Emmure and Ocean Grove over to Sylar – to name but three – have all used the various formulas of Korn, Incubus and Limp Bizkit; spicing up their own brands of metalcore to give their approach popularity whilst also tapping into an exciting batch of newish sounds too.
Now, let’s throw in some techier metal and American new-wave elements into the mixture just to make things extra confusing, familiar and ‘fresh’ at the same time. Such a combo may seem thin on paper, but the hottest and fastest rising rock band of 2018, Los Angeles quintet Bad Wolves, are more than determined to make it a mainstay with their debut offering, ‘Disobey’.
Admittedly, this new LP is one hell of a confusing listen when it comes to trying to understand just what the group are actually going for, but it’s not without its almost accidental brilliance along the way. With sounds that resemble the likes of Slipknot, Between The Buried & Me (no, for real) and the previously mentioned Incubus all meshed into one weird metal whole, it’s clear that Bad Wolves aren’t just writing heavy riffs for the sheer sake of it. (There’s still plenty of decent riffs here, though).
The likes of opening-duo ‘Officer Down’ and ‘Learn To Live’ are just as beautifully melodic as they are technically mind-boggling. Namely all with the driving help of frontman Tommy Vext’s ying-yang, dual-vocal work of heavy screams and cold, soothing clean vocals slotting neatly into whatever this band (that also features old members of God Forbid and DevilDriver) wish to do stylistically at any given point.
‘Toast The Ghost’ is where things really become convoluted though, with the main riff offering an almost direct rip-off of Slipknot’s ‘(sic)’, before descending into thunderous blast beats and ending with some group-poop crab-core. It’s all over the place but it kinda makes sense, with each riff flowing seamlessly into the next; mixing things up dynamically just enough to keep you interested.
Despite these moments, the variation of sounds that makes this record interesting is also exactly that which plagues it. While cuts like ‘Run For Your Life’ and album standout ‘Jesus Slaves’ showcase Bad Wolves at their technically dazzling prime, the slower, anthemic European-festival grabs of ‘No Masters’ and this year’s ridiculously endemic Cranberries cover – ‘Zombie’ – both feel jarring and clumsy; sounding so awfully cheesy in the context of the wider LP. The piano hook at the beginning of the ‘Zombie’ rendition is particularly cringe-worthy, sounding more like a radio-rock ballad from 2003, made all the worse by a politically charged plea for the” sheeple all over the world to disregard the war-mongering elite, dude”.
Truth be told, given some of the other influences of sound that crop up on this record it wouldn’t be at all surprising if this revival is exactly what Bad Wolves are striving for. But as the lyrics to ‘Zombie’ suggest, it’s not good that ‘it’s the same in 2018’; whether it be current affairs or this rather watered-down mainstream grab at the mass music markets who will only think Bad Wolves have just one song to their name – this Cranberries cover. (Real kudos to the band for donating all funds from this single’s insane success lately to the three children of Cranberries lead singer Dolores O’Riordan’s, may she rest in peace).
Bad Wolves also quite clearly have a sensitive streak that runs throughout their first full-length record. ‘Remember When’ does a great at touching upon the difficult issue of loss, offering a groovy hip-hop flavoured riff that drops into a chorus that feels somewhat genuine, really. However, lyrics such as ‘Remember when it was 2002, you started slinging coke and got the dopest pair of shoes’, even when sung under the heavy theme of pain and grief, just come across as crass and honestly, rather cliché. Fairing better, the titular song ‘Disobey’ hits a far more effective chord when the band play to their technically-fused metalcore strengths, which then shines much clearer on the album’s back-to-back cuts of ‘Truth or Dare’ and ‘The Conversation’.
It’s clear from the title that with ‘Disobey’, Bad Wolves are out to make a statement. While by no means a bad thing for an artist to express any of their opinions or desires, the uncertainty around how to do so on this record softens the hefty punches the band land by a considerable amount. With admittedly fantastic moments, ‘Disobey’ should be no means be disregarded by the metal and rock community for its shoe-in cover song, but rather sifted through with a grain of salt; with an eye to what else this band might be able to really offer the world on future outings. Yes, the actual sounds of Bad Wolves are exciting, but there’s nothing here in these words and howls that hasn’t been said before.
- Officer Down
- Learn To Live
- No Masters
- Run For Your Life
- Remember When
- Better The Devil
- Jesus Slaves
- Hear Me Now
- Truth Or Dare
- The Conversation
- Shape Shifter
- Toast To The Ghost
- I Swear
- Blood N Bone
‘Disobey’ is out now via Eleven Seven Music.