“This is a bit of a case of Deja Vu” I thought as I entered into Manchester’s Academy 3 on a wet and windy Sunday night. I had seen the exact same lineup (excluding Shrapnel) nigh on four years ago back in Glasgow in what I described at the time as “nothing short of astounding with both bands providing superb quality performances”. Primitai have since come back and released two more albums and I managed to catch up with them about 18 months ago but Wolf had been quiet for a bit. A few weeks ago though, the band suddenly announced they were doing a UK tour around their headline performance at Hammerfest with Primitai as main support and as such I figured it was high time for some more Swedish heavy metal.
Opening up the evening, Shrapnel were noticeably a tad different from the other bands on the bill tonight as they were more a thrash metal outfit than the heavy metal on show in the other bands. Having been impressed by them over five years ago when they played with Destruction in a stupidly sweaty Audio, it was nice to see the band had not lost any momentum with their brand of thrash metal proving to be an instant hit with the small number of people that had gathered. Playing a set comprised of songs from across their 10 years as a band and also from their upcoming EP Decade of Decimation, the quintet delivered a performance that was, quite simply, perfect.
Continuing the evening’s festivities, Berkshire’s own Primitai then took to the stage to bring their brand of heavy metal to the small crowd that was slowly growing in size. Having seen the guys a few times before, I knew what to be expecting from the effortless shredding of guitarists Sergio and Serj to the fantastic vocals from Guy but somehow everything felt a lot more polished and well rehearsed. With a setlist made up of songs from the latest record The Calling and classics like “Line of Fire” and my personal favourite “Scream When You See Us”, the band delivered a performance that seemed effortless but missing something. I can’t put my finger on what it was, but the their set just didn’t quite do it for me.
It was then time for the legendary Swedes of Wolf to hit the stage and bring all of heavy metal goodness. Opening with “Night Stalker” from 2002’s Black Wings it was clear that we were in for a night of deep cuts from across the band’s back catalogue. Transitioning straight into the monster that is “Skullcrusher” from Legion of Bastards the slightly larger crowd’s horns went up and the heads started banging to the no-nonsense metal. With it being four years since Wolf had last toured the UK and almost five since the latest release Devil Seed some members of the audience were wondering if there was going to be some new material that might make an appearance. That was indeed the case as frontman Niklas Stålvind introduced new track “Midnight Hour” to the eager fans by saying “You’re getting an exclusive here, we’ve never played this live before.” If the rest of the new album is like this one, then based on the reaction it got I’d say they’re onto a winner with it.
Playing a setlist of aforementioned deep cuts such as “Venom” from Black Wings and “Evil Star” from Evil Star alongside newer tracks such as “My Demon” from Devil Seed and Niklas’ personal favourite “Speed on” from Ravenous, Wolf delivered a true headline-worthy set whilst keeping things simple. There were no smoke cannons or pyro machines, just good music and great crowd interaction from all members of the band. And as is common, bassist Anders came down to say “Hi” to everyone whilst still shredding on the bass during one of the songs and they all hung out afterwards to sign stuff and chat to fans, not turning away anyone and making sure everyone had chance to say hello that wanted to. If that’s not a sign of how genuine and down to earth the guys are, then I don’t know what is. In short, Wolf are just as genuine and awesome as they have always been and I heartily look forward to both their new album and the next time we meet.
All photos by Bukavac Photography