October 22, 2019 Bad Wolves – N.A.T.I.O.N. (Album Review)
Bad Wolves made a name for themselves in 2018 with the release of their debut album, Disobey, which sold over one million copies and featured their standout cover of The Cranberries’ “Zombie.” Since then, the band has toured all over with some of Rock and Metal’s biggest acts including Breaking Benjamin and Shinedown, as well as performing at most of the major festivals across the country.
Now, still riding high on the heels of Disobey’s success, the band is ready to keep the momentum going with their sophomore release, N.A.T.I.O.N., set to be released on October 25th, 2019 via Eleven Seven Music. Consisting of Tommy Vext (vocals), John Boecklin (drums), Chris Cain (rhythm guitar), Doc Coyle (backing vocals, lead guitar), and Kyle Konkiel (bass), Bad Wolves is ready to ravage the industry again with their eclectic sound and unrestrained energy.
At the beginning of this eccentric journey is “I’ll Be There,” which seems to take its cues from Hard Rock, Metal, and a bit of Pop. Thanks to Vext and Coyle’s vocal dichotomy paired with Konkiel and Boeklin’s hammering on the bass and drums, this track has a crunch and visceral compulsion that acts as a jolt to the system right off the bat. Yet, at the same time, the listener is experiencing this intense kick start, the chorus offers a lighter, almost Pop-infused moment that carries you through the song. “Learn To Walk Again” shares this same sensibility – starting with intensity before breaking out into a demi-glossy chorus. There is an effervescence in the chorus that is on par with other uplifting anthems from bands like Sevendust, Shinedown, and Bullet For My Valentine. It is infectious and will have you both banging your head and singing along with ease.
The single “Killing Me Slowly” is a twisty tale of needing to keep your distance from a person because you know the relationship is toxic, but being unable to accept the need to let go. The pain you feel when you know you’re no good for someone, even if they are good for you, and the perpetual ache of when they move on and you are left with the consequences of your actions. This powerful revelation is followed by the aftermath in “Better Off This Way” where Vext acknowledges the need to sever ties singing, “‘Cause baby we don’t work no more and I don’t wanna hurt no more.” The string work in this piece is a lovely and heartrending personification of the sadness and longing conveyed in the lyrics.
“Foe or Friend” is a rager that peels back the flesh and does not hold back. The child-like chanting in the chorus adds an eerie anthemic quality that almost seems wrong given the severity of the song as a whole. It’s brutal and unrepentant and yet the tempo is strangely energizing. This is starkly contrasted with the chill and bouncy rhythm of “Sober.” This track is the strong opposition of its predecessor with a much smoother soul and a more upbeat perspective. This is a song all about hanging on to someone you care about and moving on from past mistakes. It has got an unexpected sweetness you don’t see coming after “Foe or Friend” and that almost makes it better.
Winding things down near the conclusion of N.A.T.I.O.N. is “Heaven So Heartless.” Like a breath of fresh air, this track is breathy, open, and sweeping in its ambiance. The sharpness of the snare bounces easily off the dancing synths and string elements in this song. It is surprisingly refreshing and evolves into a dancy bounce as the song winds down. “Crying Game” follows with a similar openness that grinds into a gritty confrontation of the issues with an on-again/off-again relationship where two people find their way back to one another only to keep having the same fight. Closing up shop is “LA Song” in all of its crazy frenetic glory. This track sears shut the album with blazing intimidation that ranks it amongst the heaviest songs on the album. Then in the chorus, it diverts partially back into the rhythmic bounce other choruses on the album dipped into at times. There is a consistent chugging intensity throughout the song that is both dark and even-keeled.
Despite veering into some uncertain territory at times throughout the journey of N.A.T.I.O.N., as a whole the album a tumultuous but enjoyable trip through the mind of Bad Wolves and makes for an intriguing new chapter in their story making us interested to see what they do next. That is why Cryptic Rock gives Bad Wolves N.A.T.I.O.N. 4 out of 5 stars.