Southern Lord Records
When Sweden's Wolfbrigade started recording under the name Wolfpack in 1995, D-beat wasn't cool yet. Tomas Lindberg hadn't joined Disfear, Doomriders hadn't formed, and Discharge was still making relevant albums. That landscape made Wolfpack's members pioneers, and in that context, they thrived.
Today, no such luxury exists. Damned comes out at a time when excellent metal-leaning D-beat acts like Struck By Lightning and Trap Them are a fixture in the lineups of heavy music festivals. Getting noticed isn't a matter of wearing the crustiest Motörhead hat or playing the dingiest basement anymore. The songs have to be there.
Now eight full-lengths deep, Wolfbrigade's simply aren't. The twelve tracks on Damned are uniformly relentless, competently played and dreadfully uninteresting. Gravel-throated repetition of each song's simple title by frontman Micke Dahl stands in for proper choruses, and one tempo is more or less constantly used throughout the record. Sure, the drumming is vicious on opener "Feed the Flames" and the guitar leads are muscular on six-minute centerpiece "Ride the Steel," but none of it is surprising, and worse, very little of it is inspired.
Even the effort seems to be missing, and that's what's most frustrating. Wolfbrigade is a band perfectly capable of making great music, but the label's deadline seems to have come up before their muse had time to stop by this time. The songs on Damned are ultimately more concerned with plugging the sanctioned D-beat elements into a formula than making something new and memorable.
With great D-beat albums by newer bands coming out seemingly every few months, there's just no real demand for the existence of an album like Damned. Crust punk doesn't have to be a young man's game, but Wolfbrigade certainly isn't doing the oldsters any favors.