New Band Of The Week: Bad Wolves

Bad Wolves band
Bad Wolves

Sounds Like:
Stadium-ready melodic metal powered by huge grooves and massive choruses.

For Fans Of:
Five Finger Death Punch, Pantera, Stone Sour

Listen To:
Zombie, of course! (and then Learn To Live)

Buy Bad Wolves' album Disobey on CD or vinyl

Let’s be honest: most metal fans couldn’t give a toss about what’s going on in the charts these days. But when it’s one of our own at the top, you can’t help feeling a sense of pride. On the day we sit down with Bad Wolves vocalist Tommy Vext in central London, the Los Angeles-based band are currently Number One in 17 countries with their stirring cover of The Cranberries’ classic alt anthem, Zombie. It’s been just 18 days since things started blowing up for the band, and in that whirlwind few weeks the track has notched up almost seven million streams, has been viewed nearly 20 million times on YouTube and is outselling Ed Sheeran in the US. Put simply: WTF?!

“The label is trying to find stats from the last time this happened and I don’t think they even could,” Tommy chuckles. “It’s pretty incredible. We’re the most viral song on Spotify, globally. We’re all from an extreme music background so it’s been interesting.”

Bad Wolves was initially the project of ex-DevilDriver drummer John Boecklin, who experienced a lightbulb moment while watching Faith No More in 2014 and was compelled to form a heavy band which was up for exploring more experimental sensibilities. Over the next few months, the line-up came together, completed by Tommy (ex-Snot and Divine Heresy), ex-God Forbid guitarist Doc Coyle, ex-In This Moment bassist Kyle Konkiel and guitarist Chris Cain from Bury Your Dead. And under the management of Five Finger Death Punch’s Zoltan Bathory, the band created an irresistibly lean hybrid that recalls the devastating groove of Pantera and FFDP’s huge melodies, with a juddering djent backbone.

“Our previous bands were traditional metal and we played with members who were less willing to be experimental, or just incapable of it,” explains Tommy. “They had limitations that this band doesn’t really have. For the melodies and vocal structures I really leaned into different genres, from R’n’B and hip-hop, to pop and gospel, even Busta Rhymes, Bjork and The Cranberries… which is how Zombie came to be on the record.”

Describing himself as a long-term fan of The Cranberries, Tommy admits that Bad Wolves’ sudden success has been bittersweet given that the single landed soon after the sudden death of Cranberries’ singer Dolores O’Riordan, who passed away in January. Her passing was all the more difficult for the band given the late singer had originally agreed to lend her vocals to their version of Zombie, but died on the day she was due to head into the studio to record them.

“She left me voice messages the night before she passed away,” says Tommy, sadly. “We were all heartbroken and the song almost got shelved, but ultimately we decided to turn the song into a tribute and donate the proceeds to her three children. It was the only right thing to do; we’re not trying to capitalise on the situation. We had a deep, abiding respect for this woman, this band and their body of work and we were honoured that she gave us her stamp of approval. It’s still resonating with people who heard the original and with people who’ve never heard it before. A great song is a great song and a great song is timeless.”

Now the band are releasing their debut full-length, Disobey, which perfectly balances well-drilled, hard rock anthemia with technically-charged metal, executed with the kind of devastating precision that can only come from a group of musicians who have been in the game for years. And with humongous tours alongside Five Finger, Shinedown and Breaking Benjamin in the bag over the next year and the hype machine working in their favour, the band have taken off in ways they could have only dreamed of a mere couple of months ago. But are they worried they’ll always be known as ‘that band who covered Zombie’?

“I don’t have any fear,” says Tommy vehemently. “I started my first band in ’96 and I’ve been playing underground music my entire life. I’ll never stop playing music, it’s part of who I am. I don’t do it for money or notoriety or fame. I do it because I have to because if I didn’t, somewhere along the lines of my life I probably would have killed myself. I’m a recovered drug addict and alcoholic. I’ve been sober for almost nine years. When I was born my mother was a drug addict and my twin brother and I were abandoned when we were born. I’m not concerned with what anyone thinks. Music has literally saved my life.”

Bad Wolves' new album Disobey is out now via Eleven Seven and available to order from Amazon.