Wolfbane - Wolfbane
Shadow Kingdom Records
6 songs (33'55")
Release year: 2009
Shadow Kingdom Records
Reviewed by Alex

If you read Martin Popoff’s Judas Priest, Heavy Metal Painkillers, An Illustrated History, you would know that the band had to endure a lot at the beginning and had a chance to fold on a number of occasions, if not for the sheer will power of its original backbone of K.K. Downing, Ian Hill and Glenn Tipton. Such was life of metal originators in the mid 70s-early 80s, even if those originators were not completely aware of the style they were about to unleash onto the unsuspecting world. Shadow Kingdom Records, the small US label in Pittsburgh, PA, which made it their specialty to unearth gems of NWOBHM and early doom scenes, is showing us using the example of the British outfit Wolfbane that sometimes the folks weren’t so lucky. If Judas Priest persevered, then Wolfbane succumbed to the unfortunate circumstances of multiple line-up changes, lack of funds, alcohol and gang of bikers exercising revenge on the band’s equipment while on tour. And while the duo of Gramie Dee and Dale Lee went on to the more aggressive thrashing attack of Blood Money, this current compilation on Shadow Kingdom features the Wolfbane lost demos, re-mastered from cassette tapes, the music deeply steeped in the origins of blues-tinged NWOBHM.

True to its moniker, Wolfbane had developed the werewolf subject quite a bit, even in their short, little documented existence. The opening title track and Deep Purple reminiscent The Howling explain how it is that people turn into werewolves or how one needs to behave should his girl (and her family) turn out to be ones. Wolfbane, the song, is a classic storytelling NWOBHM gallop, with playful vocals, slightly pushed back into the mix, and an expansive solo. This would fit on Killers handsomely. Speaking of storytelling, one of the strongest riffs on the compilation comes on Elric of Melnibone, where this riff is being played in and around of itself in many various ways. And if you were wondering, yes, the name of the song HAS to do with Michael Moorcock’s novel, mandatory reading if you are into the world of fantasy and sci-fi. The compilation is concluded by Midnight Lady, a quicker paced Saxon-style rocker with a vibrant bass line and head-bobbing rhythm.

Where Wolfbane leaves another undeniable mark is its slower, more meandering bluesy cuts. Leave Me and See You in Hell are such things, where the latter deals with the darker subject matter of stalking and serial killers, and the former is a soppier soggier ballad. Leave Me, swelling up come chorus time, or jazzy-gypsy cry-of-the-soul solo of See You in Hell, these songs are blues-influenced metal, but not in the heavy earth-moving way of Black Sabbath, but instead remind of that little explored slice of early metal when Judas Priest transitioned from Rocka Rolla to Sad Wings of Destiny.

If you tell me this effort by Shadow Kingdom to bring to life the long forgotten past (the one little known in the first place) is unnecessary, and Wolfbane is for NWOBHM historians only, you might be right, but the whole point of this release is to make more such historians out of the metal-loving crowd.

Killing Songs :
Wolfbane, Midnight Lady
Alex quoted 72 / 100
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