Here’s the phenomenal. If Black Wings was an upgrade of the debut, Evil Star is a complete upgrade of Wolf. Not in the sound department (which is at the same high level by the hand of Tagtren, for the last time) but in the songwriting department, which brushes with perfection.
There is a much stronger Mercyful Fate flavor here and a definite Judas Priest flavor, which combined with the ever-present essence of Iron Maiden, comprise the hereafter absolutely distinguishable Wolf blend. To make it clearer, this album could be likened to Tales from the Twilight World by Blind Guardian or Number of the Beast, meaning albums where the character of the band comes of age. The timbre of Niklas’ voice and the production of Tagtren fortify the seal of authenticity. Authenticity is all well and good of course but the juice is in the INSPIRATION. And here we have one of the best heavy metal albums of the ’00s, chock full of KILLER SONGS.
I really cannot decide what my favorite song is. It’s one of those albums (this one and the following two by the way) where my favorite track switches every month. And when I say every month, I mean that the album has spent A LOT of time in the playlist, the number of months in the double digits. I really do spin the Wolf albums endlessly, that’s not an exaggeration of artistic licence. For some time my favorite track was (was? is?) American Storm; with that addictive riff and the vocal lines on top that would move even a dead person, then the chorus, where I cannot imagine anyone resisting the urge to scream “BLOOD SUCKEEEEEΕΕR!”, and it finishes off the listener with that incredible outro. Before you can recover, in comes the catchiest song of the album, Wolf’s Blood, which logically produced a video; perfect to grab the unsuspecting ear, mercilessly addictive. A little later though is where personally get the biggest FEELS. Transylvanian Twilight (the nod to Maiden’s Powerslave) with is truly excellent solos prefaces one of the best Wolf tracks: Devil Moon. One of those moments, when the vocal melodies makes my innards ooze buckets of emotions, I have no idea how to describe it. Expectation, nostalgia, loneliness? And then it kicks (oh, how it kicks) into the main part with that riff and those vocal melodies so… well, to cut things short and less annoyingly verbal, I’m talking about trembling knees, chills down the spine and oaths of loyalty sworn to Niklas.
Like I mentioned, there is a much stronger Mercyful Fate flavor in this album, which is a big advantage. To hear for yourself, check out the FANTASTIC Out of Still Midnight with its intro and the solos and the characteristic style of MF at the riffs. The same goes for The Dark that follows, more huge solos everywhere (including the intro again, RIGHTEOUS), an epic where you hear Mercyful Fate and Judas Priest hand-in-hand, in perfect fusion. In short, we are talking about a record where you never lift the needle; you don’t skip anything no matter what. Everyone familiar with the album no doubt wonders why I haven’t said a word about the self-titled opus which opens the album (another huge outro) or about Black Wing Rider which marries Priest (verse) and Maiden of Somewhere in Time (chorus). But we are not done. The album closes officially with a magnificent cover of Don’t Fear the Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult and unofficially in the limited edition (meaning the one everyone has via torrent) with a surprising cover of Slayer’s Die by the Sword. Interesting to say the least, according to Niklas, the approach of the cover was what the song would have sounded like if Judas Priest had composed it instead of Jeff Hanneman. Even more surprising is a cover of Ramones’ melancholic and relatively unknown I’m Not Afraid of Life, which is very nicely rendered.
In conclusion, what we have here is a really brilliant heavy metal album which should appeal to every Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Mercyful Fate fan, meaning EVERYONE who listens to heavy metal and aspires to be a serious listener of the genre. It’s not an album that blows your mind right away, something impossible since it comes thirty years after the absolute peak of its influences. Yet I think it’s equally impossible to leave even the least of the tourists unmoved, some tracks are truly so catchy that it’s simply impossible not to. If there are still people who give more than a couple of listens to an album before going to the next download / youtube, I think the number of people who agree with me – that this is one of the few (and, for that reason, all the more precious) superb heavy metal albums of recent years – will be increased. And to think it’s not even my favorite Wolf album. It’s Roy Z’s though, that must count for something, but we’ll talk about that when we get to Ravenous.
What I want to listen to live: Crap man, this is an album deserving of an anniversary tour to be played whole, easily. Let’s say that if I don’t listen to American Storm, blood will be shed (I don’t know whose). Could it be that Wolf’s Blood will not be played? The Dark? Oh, well, I won’t stick a knife on their throats, as long as the album is not overlooked.
Wolf Special: I. Wolf – Wolf (1999)
Wolf Special: II. Wolf – Black Wings (2002)
Wolf Special: IV. The Black Flame (2006)
Wolf Special: The Month of the Wolf