Remember when Bad Wolves were being platformed as legitimate earth-shakers in radio-metal? When their cover of Zombie was making waves even on a mainstream level? Seems like a million years ago now, doesn’t it?
The truth is, as time has passed, it’s revealed Bad Wolves to be the kind of ready-for-radio band that’s just…adequate. Their career has certainly stabilised since booting out ex-frontman Tommy Vext, inarguably a good move seeing as his subsequent role as an ‘anti-woke’ grifter is a stain that no band in their right mind wants to be tarnished with. But with his replacement Daniel Laskiewicz at the helm—who fills basically the exact same silhouette as his predecessor, vocal tone and all—it’s not like Bad Wolves have been shooting for the moon or anything. The radio hits deigned upon them have been entirely expected, as a shiny, pre-packaged version of metal that’ll move units while still being just edgy enough to count. In other words, they’ve morphed into Five Finger Death Punch, marketed as another ingredient to congeal in the radio-rock slop like everyone else.
And that’s kind of a shame, because just like Five Finger Death Punch before they turned to crap, there is some merit to Bad Wolves. Nothing that’d convince otherwise a listener who isn’t already hooked up to an IV drip of Monster Energy, but, y’know, among their friends and peers, it’s there. The adaptability to heavier groove-metal climes and Laskiewicz’s booming baritenor vocals can make some moves in a scene that’s already massively scaled, while bearing the expected unremarkability from the outside looking in. It isn’t going to change, and Bad Wolves as an entrenched part of the active-rock machine are pretty much expected to pump that sort of thing out till the heat-death of the universe. Thus, here’s Die About It, another Bad Wolves album. It sounds like the last one.
Whether or not that’s an endorsement or a damning criticism is entirely dependent on pre-held views. From the position of a writer who can see the appeal as well as wear-and-tear from running at the same velocity once again, it’ll land more in the middle. It’s worth looking at in a vacuum to see the brighter spots, where Die About It will handily lap its competitors multiple times over. The reasons are no different than usual, but they’re still valid—Bad Wolves can simply make this sound through a heavier, more impactful lens land. Especially on Move On with its jittery synths to simulate a djent-esque feel, or just how blatant the metalcore tones and cues used throughout are, it’s one of the burliest permutations of this sound existing in a more mainstream space. And when that’s retained among some clear airbrushing of imperfections—as is the standard among hard rock nowadays—Bad Wolves’ extra sliver of effort does come through.
But let’s be clear—all of that is in a vacuum. Judging Bad Wolves amid the wider musical world bears far less fruit; hell, even in comparison with themselves, you’re finding a lot less on Die About It that leaps off the page too much. It’s a very one-paced album, this one, in which Bad Wolves’ understanding of grandeur stretches over a single middling tempo upon which every pummelling riff and towering hook is built upon, often to the point of total homogeneity. Laskiewicz’s vocals might be powerful and expressive and great for relaying a chorus to smack you in the face with no need for subtlety or nuance, but hoping for more simply isn’t worth it. The closest to that is maybe It’s You (2 Months), the album’s customary ballad that’s lodged in its acoustic R&B vibe, where Laskiewicz is most distinct when he sounds indistinguishable from Chad Kroeger.
Further to that, there’s just a lot about Die About It that’s deeply embedded in radio-rock convention and ennui, no matter how much work goes into dressing it up. Outside of NDA with its quick-stepping percussion and harsh left turn of a saxophone trail, growth isn’t something that Bad Wolves seem particularly interested in. The occasional sprinkle of synth or more prevalent production can’t paper over a formula entrenched across a fourth album from them alone. And when that’s the case, you begin to notice the individual limitations more starkly, like how Legends Never Die subdues itself in favour of a distractingly prominent vocal sample, or how cluttered and busy the mix on Say It Again can feel.
Like a lot of these, Die About It isn’t an album designed to stand up to that kind of scrutiny. Rather, it lives and dies by the effectiveness of its obvious radio singles, and on those metrics, it’s difficult to say this isn’t a success. But if you want to Bad Wolves some leeway for that…well, they should’ve just released those as standalone songs, shouldn’t they? And even then, it’s hard to say whether it’s commendable or tragic that this is still a better album than most of their contemporaries would produce. It wouldn’t even be too hard to believably disguise this as one of them—the writing is digestible and unspecific enough, the usual combination of ocean-wide declarations of power and self-strength, and similarly broad emotionality. The push-pull of whether Bad Wolves are wholly good or worthwhile is no easier to conclude on this one, but at least there’s no real evidence to push towards the contrary. Among the radio-rock crowd, they’re a better variation of the usual gruel; anywhere else, this is markedly, painfully mid. Average them out, and Bad Wolves are in their usual position—adequate.
For fans of: Five Finger Death Punch, I Prevail, Pop Evil
‘Die About It’ by Bad Wolves is released on 3rd November on Better Noise Records.
Words by Luke Nuttall