New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands don't come any more obscure than Wolfbane, who hailed from the Salford section of Manchester and were known to perform quite regularly, but left only a meager demo legacy to document their four years of off-and-on existence. Luckily for them, the Shadow Kingdom label saw fit to collect six songs from those demos, dated 1981 and 1982, for release on CD in 2010, thus casting a pen-sized flashlight on yet another largely forgotten outfit born of heavy metal's coming of age movement. And not without reason, as it turns out, since the musically accomplished trio displayed a clear thematic vision -- scene-setting narrations, morbid subjects, and werewolves, naturally -- on two out of three songs sourced from their 1981 demo: their infectiously galloping eponymous tune and the doom-fueled epic "See You in Hell" (which was quite reminiscent of Pagan Altar). The exception is "Leave Me," a rather tedious hard rocker reminiscent of UFO at their most ponderous, which actually previews a slight shift in that direction for the three cuts drawn from Wolfbane's second demo: the one recorded in 1982. Although the Michael Moorcock-dependent "Elric of Melniböne" and the typically lycanthropic "The Howling" aren't without a workmanlike spark, and the far more energetic, fist-pumping "Midnight Lady" (which appeared on both demos, but has its second version included here) reveals a welcome Thin Lizzy influence. Finally worth noting is that, as one might expect from a heavy metal power trio, guitarist Gramie Dee generally dominates proceedings with his powerful riffs and inventive leads; but his limited vocal ability goes a long way toward explaining Wolfbane's constant if futile search for a proper lead singer and a label. In all honesty, its ragged qualities are only excusable in the context of the N.W.O.B.H.M., which was rife with merely passable vocalists getting by on feel and emotion rather than chops. All in all, though, Wolfbane's bite-sized (sorry, couldn't resist) career anthology proves surprisingly entertaining, in a quaint, heart-warming fashion, but of course one has to be especially partial to the N.W.O.B.H.M. to feel such warm and fuzzy thoughts.
by Eduardo Rivadavia