Wolf
The Black Flame

Is it too late to change my best of list for 2006?Due to the holiday shuffle, the latest CD from Sweden’s Wolf has been languishing on my desk for a little more than a month. When I finally popped it in the CD player earlier this week, I knew I’d missed a record for the list, probably a top 10 record. It’s that good.

The Black Flame recalls all of the things that made me a metalhead in the first place – the epic sound of Maiden, the biting riffs of Priest and even a nod to the melodic elements of Ozzy’s first two solo records. (You’ll even hear a tip of the hat to “Over the Mountain” on this record if you listen closely.) While there are any number of bands out there right now trying to recreate that sound, few sound like more than pale imitations of the artists I’ve mentioned above. Wolf is different. In listening to the first three tracks on this record, “I Will Kill Again,” “At the Graveyard” and “Black Magic,” I got that same little charge that I got on hearing Number of the Beast or Powerslave for the first time. This is the real deal with the genuine energy that’s lacking in so many of today’s traditional metal outings.

This is 1980s melodic metal with all of the trappings, from the growly-faced, spike-covered liner photos of the band with skulls to the lyrical references to demons, Satan and magic that might make modern metal fans roll their eyes. But the galloping power riffs of Niklas Stalvind and Johannes Losback are no laughing matter. Admittedly, Stalvind occasionally hits a nasally note that I find annoying, much in the way I find Geddy Lee’s vocals annoying, but for the most part his voice works with the songs.

If, like me, you grew up in the heyday of Maiden and Priest and think they just don’t make metal like that anymore, check out The Black Flame. If you want to leave those glory days in the past, pass on it. This record is unabashedly old-fashioned, but undeniably powerful.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Fred Phillips
January 12th, 2007

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