I’ve got to be honest about this one after having just read a review for the band’s previous record, The Venomous. That disc is as the reviewer there noted, very reminiscent of In Flames during their Whoracle, Colony and Clayman eras, but it also has some At The Gates influence in addition to others like Dark Tranquillity.
Obviously, that hasn’t changed for their latest album Wolf To Man, which is even more of a tread through the glory days of melodic death metal. Yet, I’m going to come out of the blue with a completely unexpected opinion and say that I’m extremely happy to hear this. Why? Because for the past number of years, melodic death metal has just been so dreary.
When acts like Bel’akor and Insomnium began digging so far into sullen riffs, I had to jump the European scene altogether and listen to the more melodic and even quite cheery Japanese efforts for a while. The Japanese metal scene really took off in the mid ‘00s with this brand of metal and then they further infused it with Touhou melodies and Idol vocals from the doujin (indie) scene, a peculiar decision which actually ended up breathing new life into the melodic death metal scene. Not to mention the Neoclassical approaches that also found their way into the mix, turning this genre of metal into a new beast altogether.
Yet that’s why I appreciate Wolf To Man so much. It shows that bands who have been playing this music in slight variations for quite some time are now ready to get back into the familiar grooves and melodies that encompassed genre’s birth. If you don’t think that people are ready for this kind of resurgence, then go look at the comments section for any recent In Flames article over the past few years.
You’ll see nothing but comments begging the band to go back to their old sound which doesn’t seem like something that is ever going to happen. So what can these disgruntled In Flames fans do? That’s easy. They can check out Wolf To Man, because every song here sounds like it comes from an era right between Whoracle and Colony. Simply put, this is the album that you’ve been asking In Flames to make.
Even the riff and melody structures follow the same formula as early In Flames, so it’s as if the band made a new disc in their classic style, albeit under a different name. In my opinion, there’s no problem with that. If Sweden’s done with melodic death metal, then Greece has simply picked it back up, much in the way that they’ve been doing with a lot of top-notch traditional heavy metal and power metal retreads these days. The Japanese on the other hand, are moving closer towards core with their current efforts, so the melodic death metal coin is getting passed around once again and it’s never sounded more authentic than it does here in Greece.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t like the At The Gates album To Drink From The Night Itself, because it sounded a bit too run of the mill for me, but there’s a lot of energy and firepower here in Wolf To Man and that makes it stand out. Obviously, “Arm Aim Kill” really brought me back to the glory days of In Flames, though there are several standouts on the disc that continue to remind me why I still love this kind of music nearly fifteen years later.
I know that some of you will say that you already have albums in your collection that sound just like this one and that’s fine, but for me, it’s been a long time since I’ve heard traditional melodic death metal that didn’t stray far from the core of the genre’s roots. Wolf To Man feels like the snake biting it’s own tail, the circling back around to what began in the early nineties. Granted, it has modern production and flair; but the spirit of this genre is intact and that’s where my ears are most focused. I could easily jam this record a number of times and not get worn out on it, because In Flames haven’t made an album this good in years… I mean, Nightrage.
Look, it doesn’t really matter much in the long run because this recording is a prime example of what people have been begging to hear from In Flames, but because the average person is an idiot and it doesn’t have a familiar name attached to it, they’ll skip it altogether and continue to beg and plead for another In Flames disc in the same style. I’ve heard “I The Mask” and believe me, it’s not this.
You can either settle for the alternative rock and metal moments that comprise the band now or you can move towards a different band who is carrying on the glory days of the aforementioned perfectly. Wolf To Man is definitely one of my personal favorite melodic death metal releases this year and it’s right up there with The Venomous. It could very much be considered a tribute of sorts, but at this rate; I feel that such a tribute could fit the tone of a well warranted original recording. Whatever the case, I’m simply thrilled with it and if people obsessed with a certain Swedish progenitor would simply give it a chance, I’m sure that they would be as equally pleased.