Despite a very low success rate, bands still keep searching for that right radio-friendly balance between metallic might and hard rock melody. The big reason groups keep failing at finding that “Holy Grail” of commercial-grade melodic metal is pretty simple. There is this odd and false notion that to make catchy music, you have to dilute your metal. Much like the watering down of a cask-strength whiskey, the hints of musical flavor often stick around, but they’re drowned out by a universal element that masks what could be something more. The solution to this problem is Disobey, which gleefully ignores the typical radio metal rule book. This first full-length from Bad Wolves, a new project from a host of metal veterans who have served time in God Forbid, Devildriver, and Bury Your Dead, showcases a strength of musical purpose – along with a pretty killer set of riffs and hooks. The record should easily appeal to a wide array of consumers, but Disobey is highlighted by an impressive display of personality for a debut.
Given the members’ pedigree, it’s not surprising that the name of the game here is groove metal, but what’s striking (and surprising) is the deft balance of Pantera and Meshuggah; Disobey defies easy categorization, as the ballads are unexpectedly powerful – the cover of The Cranberries’ “Zombie”, recorded the day O’Riordan passed away is particularly moving. Though it’s “Here Me Now” that’s most impressive, with its heavier undercurrent. However, these slighter injections are nothing compared to the musical might when the band fully flexes their muscles – songs like “Truth or Dare”, “No Masters”, and “Run For Your Life” (among others) highlight the heft (bark?) that Bad Wolves can employ when it wants. There are a fair number of groups trying to make melodic groove/djent, but few do it as easily and memorably as Bad Wolves.
The biggest issue with Disobey, aside from a couple minor clunkers (“Remember When” and “Learn to Live” stick out) is the sheer length of the record. Including the three bonus tracks, this 16-song debut is generous and impressive in its first impression, but tightening things up would only strengthen the result. Small issues aside, Bad Wolves’ first release is proof positive that melodic metal doesn’t have to be neutered in order to attempt to appeal to the masses. Disobey, despite some startlingly political lyrics, have the hooks and riffs that should appeal to rock and metal fans aplenty.