The Black Flame
Wolf - The Black Flame - 2006 - Century Media
|Track Listing1. I Will Kill Again|
2. At the Graveyard
3. Black Magic
5. Make Friends with Your Nightmares
8. Seize the Night
9. Steelwinged Savage Reaper
10. Children of the Black Flame
Sweden's answer to Iron Maiden rages back to life with "The Black Flame", a roaring old school metal fest that combines NWOBHM melody with powerful and pulverizing displays of galloping might. In years past I would have guessed Wolf would have massed a huge following, possibly kicked into the mainstream world with the likes of 3 Inches Of Blood and Trivium. However I will say that Wolf's sound has always been a bit dated even with fantastic production values. In 2004 the group's "Evil Star" highlighted my year end playlists, conjuring up memories of Lynott and Thin Lizzy as well as crossing into the land of Quartz, Grim Reaper, and of course older Mercyful Fate from over two decades ago. So does the band's fourth record still carry that same traditional sound? That is the question I had as I hit play.
"The Black Flame" is possibly the album that sounds less dated than the previous three Wolf ventures. With albums like "Evil Wings" and "Evil Star" these Swedish leathernecks basically continued on as if it was 1982, never really breaking into any type of new setting other than production. However with this record the band is more about modern power metal, maybe dipping into Sweden's current crop of superstars to gain a bit of momentum for this effort. While the band still showcases a dazzling display of melody, twin guitar harmony, and of course super clean vocals, I can also hear a good shot of heavy groove based riffing, most evident on the fist pounding metallic slab "Bite", which just blazes with an Iced Earth style gallop throughout. You can also hear some newer elements on the high speed "Steelwinged Savage Reaper", a personal highlight of the record for me. The band's opening cut is a thunderous chop that leaves the chorus hammered in your head. "At The Graveyard", "Black Magic", and "Make Friends With Your Nightmares" recalls seasoned Wolf, really hitting on the melodic nature of the beast. The band is of course still deeply mired in '40s and '50s horror, with most of the songwriting like a blend of Poe and old school magazines like "Eerie Tales". At times the band also writes in the style of Mercyful Fate, with "At The Graveyard" really recalling that "Under The Oath" vibe.
Bottom Line - Overall this is probably one of my favorite Wolf records to date, an album that may possibly alienate them from their core fanbase but a good change of pace from past workings. I like the more modern feel of the band and I think at this point it was a much needed change.