Shadowland, album number nine by Sweden’s Wolf, is another slab of quality Heavy Metal. The band have wasted little time following up 2020s Feeding The Machine, which they were able to promote slightly with a support slot to Grand Magus just prior to the worldwide lockdowns.
Wolf – Shadowland (Century Media)
Release Date: 1 April 2022
Words: Paul Hutchings
In eleven tracks and 56 minutes, Shadowland has a big footprint, and the good news is that Wolf have filled it with strong, muscular Heavy Metal that crosses the cleverness of Megadeth with the Metal confidence of Dio.
Holding the ship together is Niklas Stålvind, the sole original member whose lead vocals and guitar playing are as impressive as in previous times.
The Wolf line-up is now settled with the same four musicians returning for Shadowland as laid down Feeding The Machine, and the engine room of bassist Pontus Egberg and drummer Johan Koleberg are now locked in tight. This provides the backbone for Stålvind and fellow guitarist Simon Johansson to let rip with some sweet lead breaks.
“When Pontus and Johan joined the band, I had four songs written,” Stålvind said. “I wrote Shadowland for myself, thinking that it might turn up on a solo project or something else. My writing process was to dig deep into my unconsciousness and just let the songs take form without trying to overthink it.”
Wolf has always delivered consistent Heavy Metal, and Shadowland is no different. The opening track, Dust, starts the record at a frantic pace, a real fiery driving song that segues nicely into another strong track in Visions Of The Blind. There’s a real contemporary feel to Shadowland, which also stays in touch with the band’s Metal roots through delicious melodies that run through each song.
Whilst Wolf has a tried and trusted formula, and there is plenty of variation across the album to maintain the interest. Evil Lives races along, a nice thrashy edge to it, whilst Stålvind’s clean vocals sit alongside the likes of Mike Howe (RIP), John Bush and JB Christoffersson in an exemplary demonstration of how to do classic Heavy Metal right. The title track has an epic feel in the style that Dio would have been pleased to have penned, a lovely switch on the chorus leaving a lingering memory that lasts for ages.
There’s some interesting wordplay on The Ill-Fated Mr Mordrake, another headbanger of a tune, and then we arrive at Rasputin, which smoulders with mysticism. It’s not the first time that the mad monk has been the topic of a Metal song, but Wolf has conjured up a song full of darkness and mystery.
A couple of other excellent tracks lead us to the triumphant finale – Trial by Fire, listed as a bonus track on my copy but one of the most anthemic and gloriously meaty songs on the whole release.
Wolf do what they do without fuss or flamboyance, but they do it incredibly well. If traditional Heavy Metal is your thing, I’m assuming Wolf will be on your radar.
If not, then Shadowland is an album that should be your gateway to a band that is already well into their third decade and doesn’t always get the recognition they deserve.