It begins with a scream, a wailing, hedonistic and libidinous scream. This is when you know you’re in for one hell of a ride. The debut self-titled album from Australia’s Wolfmother is here, and you may never be the same. This throwback metal band rocks harder and louder than you would expect from a three piece, but your bleeding eardrums, permanent horn-throwing hands and whiplashed neck will serve as the proof. The power chords may be lifted, the vocals stolen and the riffage swiped from acts thirty-some odd years ago, but that doesn’t take away from the unabashed rock and roll party that is Wolfmother. Roll that 20-sided die, my friends, and find out how many hit points you lose due to the skull-splitting rock and roll spellcasting coming your way.
Opening track “Dimension” has appeared on two preview EPs from Wolfmother and it’s easy to hear why this is one of the central pieces on the album and why they assault you with it from the start. Andrew Stockdale’s scream leads into a Blues Explosion drum and bass riff that then leads into guitar work worthy of Cream. “White Unicorn” and “Woman” are pure Zeppelin-esque wonder complete with mythical imagery and Plant-like rock diva vocals. Besides recalling Zeppelin and Cream there are also heavy doses of Black Sabbath and ’80s/’90s band The Cult. Besides having a legendary falsetto scream, Andrew Stockdale can wield a mean +12 Gibson guitar like a vorpal sword. Chris Ross can force his menacing thundering bass through Marshall stacks like Cthulhu can force his way back into this dimension. Myles Heskett pounds through powerful drum riffs like the goblin drums of the deep, which are enough to call forth the mighty Balrog. You get the idea.
“Apple Tree” takes things in somewhat of a different direction. Rather than the epic power chords, Wolfmother takes on more of a stuttering punk blues approach, a la the White Stripes. They also take liberally from Hendrix as in “Dimension,” Stockdale makes a passing reference to a “purple haze in the sky” and then the Dylan song which Hendrix covered, “All Along the Watchtower,” gets a nod in “Joker & the Thief.” The chords in “Colossal” are exactly that, huge and powerful, and one of the first great songs on the album that didn’t appear on a previous EP. “Mind’s Eye” finally slows down the frenetic heart pounding pace, while still not straying too far from the blues-rock arena filling majesty of bands like Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. The proggy “Pyramid” follows with a leading bassline and an almost Brian Wilson-esque vocal line at the beginning. “Witchcraft” is what this band’s all about, and I don’t mean the song that Sinatra made famous. Dramatic Plant-like vocals about myth and magic are layered over massive guitar chords with manic drumming and yes, even a Jethro Tull era flute! Oh dear me, is this really happening? “Tales” is another song that is immediately likeable, with even somewhat of the dark side of Duran Duran’s choruses included. Wolfmother can begin to border on ridiculousness, but that is all part of the fun. If you can’t abandon yourself to the impending silliness, then you’ll probably hate this album.
Throw on top all of this amazingly clean production by D. Sardy, whose previous work includes albums by Helmet, Far, Rage Against the Machine, Marilyn Manson, and, that’s right, Slayer, and an album cover by fantasy artist Frank Frazetta and you have the makings of one, excuse the pun, mother of a rock album. You may have the dexterity to play air guitar along with Stockdale. You may even have the strength to rock as hard as the band does for a full fifty-two pulse throbbing minutes. Hell, I’m sure you have the wisdom and intelligence to know that Wolfmother isn’t trying anything new, but you sure as hell don’t have the charisma that they do to pull off an album like this.