I’m having trouble putting Wolfhead into a category. When my editor gave it to me to listen to, he described it as “doomish, black, rockish,” and I can definitely see what he was talking about. On their self-titled debut, Wolfhead seem to straddle across genres, never quite settling into one type of music. For instance, the opening track, “Journey by the Shaman’s Hand,” is your basic hard-rock song that I could see my local rock radio station playing. It’s kind of loud, kind of heavy, but it’s pretty standard hard rock. The next track, “Cul De Sac,” is much louder, with steady, Motorhead-style percussion and vocals. By track three, “Sons of Asgard,” they’re venturing into doom-metal territory, but just barely.
I’m sure this is no accident. Vocalist Ivan Arrieta sounds a lot like a young Ozzy Osbourne, and a quick look at the band’s MySpace page shows that their influences cross into many genres of metal and hard rock, from Black Sabbath to Slayer to Alice in Chains. And though Wolfhead seem to meander between genres, they still maintain a uniform sound throughout five these six tracks, internalizing the different styles and making them their own. At a time where some bands seem to be weighed down by the conventions of their chosen genre, it’s refreshing to hear a band whose musical identity is more fluid.
In fact, its lack of genre boundaries that makes the sixth track, a cover of Pink Floyd‘s “Wish You Were Here,” such a let down. The hallmark of a great cover song is when the band makes it their own song, taking it outside its original context and putting their unique flavor on it. Wolfhead‘s cover, unfortunately, is an exercise in what I like to call “Full-Band Karaoke.” The acoustic guitar sounds exactly like the one on the original, and everything else about the cover seems to be an attempt to sound as close to Pink Floyd‘s version as possible. In that regard, they succeed, but if I want to listen to Floyd, I’ll listen to Floyd. I wanted to listen to Wolfhead.
Overall, Wolfhead‘s debut sounds like a band that’s still figuring out exactly who they want to be, but are almost there. If they manage to keep being themselves and not let what others expect out of genre A or genre B, they should be making some noise real soon.