As the name suggests, Lonewolf owe plenty in style to original German Pirateers Running Wild (‘Lonewolf’ being one of RW’s better known tracks of course), which I have to admit is an area of Power Metal that I’m quite partial to. I agree with most of the views I’ve read about Lonewolf’s 2012 offering “Army Of The Damned” – the main gripe being with the heavily French accented gravelly vocals that tended to grate on the nerves after a while. Well the band ARE from France, so it’s got to be accepted that there may be a slight accent (a little like accusing Rammstein of sounding a bit German…), but I feel that if this was an issue, it has pretty much been addressed this time around. Vocalist Jens Börner (typically French name there…) now sounds somewhere between Grave Digger’s Chris Boltendahl and David Glen Eisley (circa the rather underrated Murderer’s Row album).
So, David Glen Boltendahl sings Running Wild? And that’s where many of you have stopped reading and left me with just a small gathering that are either a) Running Wild fans, b) Not quite as easily discouraged Power Metal fans, or c) Really bored with nothing better to do. I’ll aim the review at categories ‘a’ and ‘b’ if that’s OK, but the rest of you are more than welcome to stick with it too…
I think it’s a little harsh to dismiss Lonewolf as purely Running Wild clones, because writing a few twiddly, shanty-style guitar riffs over Power Metal drumming doesn’t make a band Running Wild…but it’s a good place to start! Given that the main influence IS Running Wild, it’s nice that I hear additional similarities to Tyr on ‘Guardian Angel’ and ‘Time For War’, a touch of Ensiferum on ‘Hellride’ and a real classic Bodom-ness on ‘Throne Of Skulls’. Orden Ogan are of course in evidence too, especially on the epic ‘Destiny’ and some Freedom Call is scattered here and there too. OK, all these slightly more unexpected influences are balanced – but not outweighed – by the utterly overblown galloping Happymetal of tracks such as ‘Dragonriders’, ‘The Brotherhood Of’ and the title track. But that’s absolutely fine by me! You’ve got to have a few songs like this, and granted a whole album of this stuff might be a little hard to stomach, but Lonewolf don’t fall into that trap – there is such a nice variety of styles under their umbrella that the whole album seems to gel really well. I suppose some people will also claim there is some Alestorm in the mix, but really Alestorm are more lyrically Pirate Metal rather than musically, whereas Lonewolf are musically of the Pirate Metal trait but lyrically have more in common with Viking or Battle Metal.
I reckon Lonewolf have got it right with “The Fourth and Final Horseman”, and yeah, they are not going to be liked by many Extreme Metal fans, just as Power Metal itself isn’t. And given that Running Wild have been ridiculed within the Metal scene for many years (I remember them being dubbed as Iron Maiden meets Captain Pugwash in a 1986 review! Probably justified in hindsight…), then Lonewolf aren’t likely to sell millions of records. But this album is great fun! It is one of those albums that you ‘Do stuff to’ y’know? Do you need to walk the dog? Wash the car? Mow the lawn? Take the bus? Then listen to Lonewolf and everything seems to be less mundane and just a little bit more fun. I hereby give Napalm Records permission to use that as a marketing slogan!
7.5/10 – Andy Barker