Review by Greg Maki
If you’ve been anywhere near rock radio so far in 2018, Bad Wolves’ reimagining of the 1994 Cranberries hit “Zombie” has been inescapable—and for good reason. It’s everything a cover should be: true to the spirit of the original yet infused with the current band’s identity and still relevant nearly 25 years later. Plus, there’s a good story behind it, with Bad Wolves donating all of its proceeds from the track to the family of the late Cranberries singer Dolores O’Riordan.
But if you think that song in any way sums up Bad Wolves and its slamming debut album, “Disobey,” you’ve got another thing coming.
Bad Wolves is every inch a metal band, populated by longtime veterans of the scene who have been grinding it out for years—vocalist Tommy Vext (Divine Heresy, Snot, Westfield Massacre), guitarists Doc Coyle (God Forbid) and Chris Cain (Bury Your Dead), bassist Kyle Konkiel (In This Moment) and drummer John Boecklin (DevilDriver). But it doesn’t sound like any of its members’ previous bands. “Disobey” is full of pummeling yet intricate riffs and rhythms, sometimes bordering on progressive if you listen closely enough, Boecklin’s drumming in particular. Vext uses a varied vocal attack to hold it all together, with a special emphasis placed on his emotional, melodic croon in the massive choruses that should ensure this is no one-hit wonder.
With 13 songs—16 if you go for the vinyl—lasting nearly an hour, “Disobey” is a lot to take in, especially for a debut. It’s also remarkably confident and cohesive, without a single skip-worthy track. Highlights include the high-energy “Officer Down,” “Learn to Live” and “Run for Your Life;” the grooving “No Masters;” the heart-wrenching “Remember When,” inspired by Vext’s tumultuous relationship with his twin brother; and the ultra-intense “Better the Devil.” Each song, though, demands attention; I recently saw the band play the entire album live, and it all held up.
For a lot of casual listeners, Bad Wolves might forever be known as the band that does the “Zombie” cover. But there’s so much more to them than that. “Disobey” is the strongest debut I’ve heard in years and one of the best metal albums of 2018’s first half.
(Eleven Seven Music, May 11, 2018)