Wolfpack Unleashed - Anthems of resistance 4/5

Reviewed: 3-14-08


1. Last dance of a dying king
2. Religion of control
3. Next victim
4. Killing fields
5. Disgrace erased
6. Warzone
7. To challenge death
8. Eroica
9. Wolfpack Unleashed
10. Religion of control

With the thrash revival having gained considerable traction of late, independent (and even major) record labels around the world are tripping over themselves to sign every bullet-belted, Bonded-by-Blood-influenced retro-thrash act they can get their hands on, no matter what style those bands were playing last week. That's not what happened here. Napalm Records have a well-deserved reputation for cultivating excellent, innovative bands that offer something a bit different, a bit unique. By and large, Napalm doesn't clamber aboard bandwagons, and they aren't interested in signing bands who do. Neither Napalm's integrity nor its knack for sniffing out quality were compromised when Wolfpack Unleashed joined their roster.

To be sure, Wolfpack Unleashed's debut CD, 'Anthems of resistance', is being marketed as a throwback Bay Area thrash recording. Internet reviews breathlessly comparing it to Metallica's 'Master of puppets' or early Testament are ubiquitous. Without question, those influences are there. The band wears them prominently on their sleeves, both in the razor-sharp tasty riffing of Wolfgang Koch and Karl Preininger, as well as in the raw, throaty vocals of Gunther Wirth, who channels Metallica's James Hetfield, Xentrix's Chris Astley, Perzonal War's Matthias Zimmer and especially Sanctity's Jared Maceachern quite effectively. But it would be a mistake to classify Wolfpack Unleashed as just another Bay Area retro-thrash band, because there's much more than that going on here. These Austrian thrashers have a distinctly European vibe in their sense of melody, and some of those guitar harmonies sound like long-lost Gothenburg tidbits. So what Wolfpack Unleashed give us is a teeth-rattling, spine-tingling, head-on collision between vintage Bay Area thrash metal and European melodic death metal. The result is a very fresh-sounding CD that feels like 2008, rather than 1988 or 1998, but that captures some of the best elements of aggressive heavy metal from those important eras.

The combination of styles works very well on 'Anthems of resistance' because they are so well balanced. Whereas many of today's retro-thrash CDs come across as monotonous, one-dimensional, and well, boring after a few songs, the melodeath elements frequently cropping up on this CD keep the listener on his toes and the band out of a rut. The songs have personality and character, the guitar work is exciting and entertaining, and the 42-minute playing time passes in a flash. And best of all, Wolfpack Unleashed have prudently excised any metalcore or "nu" tendencies from their music, thereby avoiding the missteps that have derailed bands like Perzonal War and Sanctity attempting to tread a similar path in recent years. No doubt, fans of Perzonal War, Sanctity and even Trivium's 'The crusade' will go bonkers for 'Anthems of resistance', but to me this CD is at least a half-step above the others mentioned because it feels more authentic and true, rather than forced and contrived. To these ears, Wolfpack Unleashed sound extremely comfortable with this style. Their confidence and enthusiasm shine through, perhaps because they were playing this kind of music before the thrash revival and perhaps because they have previously recorded and released almost all of these songs in demo form, such that 'Anthems of resistance' is Wolfpack Unleashed's 2nd trip to the rodeo with the same batch of strong tunes.

In short, for those who crave a thrashy assault but who find the retro-thrash movement too much like a cheap Xerox, Wolfpack Unleashed are worth a try. For those who remember the glory days of the Gothenburg scene and lament how stale and burnt-out that scene became, Wolfpack Unleashed may be for you. And for those who dig the Sanctitys and Triviums of the world even as they question their motives, Wolfpack Unleashed could be a beacon of light. So gather round, mates, and let's howl at the moon as we unleash the inner thrasher in all of us. Here's the soundtrack ...




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