Ok my friends, I want to tell you a story. This story begins, oh, maybe as many as 15 years or so ago. I hadn't discovered punk, goth, industrial and all those other musical styles I listen to today as of yet. I was young. I was wild. I listened to that's right, you know it's coming METAL! Metallica, Megadeth, Black Sabbath - aww yeah. Back before the hair bands took over and metal went glam, we had real metal. Some of you were into this once too. No, I'm not going to make you admit it - rest assured in your obscurity. Among all those heavy metal bands back then was one in particular that I was an adamant fan of. They couldn't do no wrong. Coming across in the NWOBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal - no really, it's an accepted industry acronym, I'm not making this shit up) just after Black Sabbath and Motorhead was Iron Maiden. I loved these guys. I, clad in denim and leather, was screaming "Up the Ironz" long before the band actually put the slogan in the Seventh Son of a Seventh Son jacket with every inhaled portion of nicotine, tar and, occasionally, other chemicals. I loved metal. It was the first real form of music that I as an individual listened to that wasn't pre-planted in my head by my parents.
Years later, Bruce Dickinson, a man who's voice I would come to emulate in some of my own silly-ass band efforts, left them. He set off on his own. I own those albums too laugh and die. Maiden picked up a man by the name of [cough] Blaze to continue in Dickinson's stead. To this day I refuse to admit that lineage change and own nothing beyond Fear of the Dark (1992). But then again, in '99, Bruce came back. And I listened to that new album, whose name I can't remember, on the way to another old-skool concert (Kiss - yeah, I'm not kidding - I am so dating myself in this review). I'm sorry folks - Maiden's over. They have been since 1992. And I was depressed.
And yes, I do have a point. And yes, this point has everything to do with Seasons of the Wolf. I wanted to tell you that story so you can understand just how much the metal genre means to me. And how sad I was to see it taken over by hairheads to become the tired, unheard of music it is today. The bastard son of the music industry of the 80s and 90s. But now for the first time in nearly a decade I feel good about the heavy metal genre. The latest release by Seasons of the Wolf - Lost In Hell - is the first metal album in nearly a decade that I truly love. It's only coincidence that SotW contributed their rendition of Maiden's Flash of the Blade (Powerslave) just last year to Children of the Damned, a tribute to Iron Maiden.
Begun in October 1988, Seasons of the Wolf, after years of preparation which included their own Earth Mother Music record label, released A Look Back In Time in 1996, their debut EP. Now just breaking into radio around the world with the '98 enlistment of help from The Syndicate, SotW have released their first full length, Lost In Hell. The full length is an excellent contribution to heavy metal - both of today and of the purity and splendor of yesterday. If available at that time, it could have easily been added to the lineup of my story that kicked off this review. The band is made up of Barry Waddell (guitarist/producer), Wayne Hoefle (percussion), Wes Waddel (vocalist), Dennis Ristow (keys/engineering) and Chris Whitford (bass).
Lost In Hell contains twelve tracks - over an hour of metal that any purist would cream over. Everything you have been missing for the last decade is there - the fantasy and myth references, the stories of heroship and power, the guitar riffs that knock down walls, the awesome packaging with amazing artwork, subtle growing musical arrangements that break into powerplays of speed and triumph. It's all there - every piece that drew me to the genre in the first place. And they close the album with Land of the Dead done live. What the hell more can you ask for?
Now we come to the hardest part of review writing - the highlighting of individual tracks from the album. In this case it is still as difficult, but only because it's hard to pick out highlights from a collection that I enjoy so much. But we're going to start by jumping to track 5 - Interstellar. Opening with a windy background and complicated percussion play as provided by Hoefle, Interstellar is one of those storytelling songs that shows the true skills of all members of SotW individually. From the chord arrangements that add to the song's mystique by Ristow, an awesome opening guitar solo by B. Waddel and supporting flawless basslines by Whitford, the song takes its time to lay its splendor on you before going into the story behind the song. W. Waddel's vocal capabilities rival that of the past greats of the genre - most notably Dickinson, so you can understand why I found SotW to be one of my non-stop playlist favorites over the past few weeks.
Abandoned City is one of those immediate-riff attacks. Keyboard and guitar trade melodies in the outset prior to going into a bass-loaded and swift arrangement. The nominal opening Lost In Hell is slayer-like in its make-up. Very fast almost to the point of thrash, yet remaining controlled and tight (which is something that much from Slayer lacked), it mellows out as it rolls into vocal stanzas and breaks into a heavy barrage during chorus areas. There's Initiation with its slow-beat beginning and the moody, Halloween-like horrorshow keyboards. This one grows exponentially, and for some reason reminds me of Dickinson's solo track Laughing in the Hiding Bush (Balls To Picasso) with its spooky setting and pain-laced vocals.
Seasons of the Wolf's Lost In Hell is, unequivocally, the best metal album I have heard in a decade. Without exaggeration. The last one that excited me and made me love this genre so much was Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. For all the metal purists, for all those that are still going to the reunion concerts and farewell concerts of Cooper, Kiss, Sabbath and, yes, Maiden, and for all those who are waiting for "metal to come back," you must get this one. It is an imperative inclusion to any metalhead collection. While it's hard to believe that true metal will return to be as bold and big as it was in the late 80s, Seasons of the Wolf have nonetheless infused it with an amazing release that brings it back to the glory that was once there. Up the Wolf!
Post: SOTW, 6071 17th St. East, Unit 5 - Bradenton, FL, 34203
Phone: (941) 739-8332