REVIEW: "Disobey" By BAD WOLVES
Djent/Hard Rock/Eleven Seven Music/Released May 11, 2018
Super groups are often hit and miss ventures in the rock and metal world. Bringing together experienced members of notable bands don't always equal a great result. And if the band does gel and make solid material they often don't stick around due to their main projects, personality clashes, or other reasons. But California's Bad Wolves have given themselves a better head start than most netting a chart topping hit in their cover of The Cranberries' track "Zombie". Of course the band needs to follow through with their original material if they're going to have a lasting career.
Formed in 2017, Bad Wolves consists of former members of a few notable metal acts including DevilDriver, God Forbid, Bury Your Dead, and Divine Hersey among others. With Five Finger Death Punch's Zoltan Bathory co managing the band, Bad Wolves signed with Eleven Seven Music and released two original singles before their "Zombie" cover catapulted the band's notoriety. The swift success was bittersweet with The Cranberries' Dolores O'Riordan slated to record vocals on the band's cover of her song on the day of her passing. In respect to O'Riordan's memory, Bad Wolves donated all profits from the single to her children.
While the band's rendition of "Zombie" was in the form of a moody hard rock ballad, the bulk of Bad Wolves' material is closer to djent in style featuring down-tuned, extended range guitars and jumpy, dynamic rhythms common in bands like Veil Of Maya and Periphery.. Something that sets the band apart from many others in djent is their ability to inject strong choruses and melody into the style giving them accessibility far beyond their peers. That also makes this project much softer than the metalcore and melodeath styles of the member's previous projects.
Disobey begins with an impressive one-two punch in the songs "Officer Down" and "Learn To Live". Both tracks give a strong idea of the band's general sound with aggressive, swift, chuggy riffs that are interspersed with moments of melody. Frontman Tommy Vext excels at both his screamed and melodic vocals with a particular adeptness at staccato vocal delivery in some of his screamed vocals to match the stuttering rhythms of the guitars.
While the djent style is a big part of Bad Wolves' sound they do perform some more conventional hard rock songs in the likes of "No Masters" and "Remember When". "No Masters" is a bluesy, slow tempo, fist pumper with a "stand up and fight" message and kind of resembles some of Metallica's 90's Load/Reload material. "Remember When" is a relatively softer track with Vext singing about his relationship with his brother and how each of them have changed over time. The verses are more atmospheric with a big chorus at it's center making it one of the more radio friendly tracks of the album.
A glaring weakness on the record are the softer ballad leaning tracks. While the heaviest tracks are unique in style and composition, and some of the hard rock tracks are passable, the softer tracks like "Hear Me Now" and "Truth Or Dare" are severely lacking in ambition and creativity and come off as empty radio fodder. Vext has a plenty strong enough voice to carry a ballad but the band needs to do more than a wall of sound, chord-to-chord chorus with some middling verse filler to stand out. The more melodic tracks are new territory for many of the members and it's made obvious that when they step out of their heavier comfort zone they're struggling to keep things interesting.
Disobey is a solid debut for Bad Wolves. There's plenty of stand out tracks that can grab the radio crowd despite their heaviness like "Learn To Live" and "Toast To The Ghost". But despite this new, accessible twist on the djent genre it's still got enough mainstream radio haze that can make it grow old very quickly if the band can't figure out how to build on it. And if the band's slower and ballad-esque songs don't become more ambitious they could be in danger of being a flash in the pan. Only time will tell. But thus far there's a lot of potential in this first step of the band's career.