Music

The 10 Best Wolf Bands

From Wolves in the Throne Room to Howlin' Wolf, and eight more in between.

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The 10 Best Wolf Bands

Apparently, more than 1,000 bands have the word “wolf “in their names. There’s an entire blog dedicated to the topic, and if you search our own exclusive archives, you’ll find everything from Peter Wolf Crier to Lone Wolf to S. M. Wolf and more. That doesn’t even begin to mention any of the wolf bands that have released new music this year, like the return of Montreal-based rockers Wolf Parade and London’s alternative Wolf Alice. With so many musicians channeling the sleekness and ferocity of these majestic animals, we decided to take a look at the best bands with ”wolf” in their names.

10. Wolves in the Throne Room
Brothers Aaron and Nathan Weaver, the braintrust behind this black metal project, allegedly live as far off the grid as they can, in a shared cabin in the woods outside Olympia, Washington. Not only has that allowed them to hone their eco-centric worldview, which bleeds into their lyrics but it also lets them focus wholly on their art. The result has been a nearly-flawless run of albums and live performances of thundering atmospheric rock that suffused with ambient and darkwave influences and gushes with energy and malevolence. —Robert Ham

9. Steppenwolf
These days, Steppenwolf might be relegated to the amorphous time that preceded hair metal, but the Canadian rock band’s influence on the era can’t be overstated. Named for a novel by the German poet/author Hermann Hesse, Steppenwolf carved out its place in rock lore with songs like roiling, squealing “Magic Carpet Ride” and “Rock Me,” and propelled themselves into the stratosphere with the timeless “Born to Be Wild.” —Hilary Saunders

8. Wolf Eyes
Trip-metal band Wolf Eyes are so beloved within the underground music world that they somehow convinced labels like Sub Pop and Third Man to take a chance on their unbound racket and dark instrumental racket. Formed initially as a side project for Nate Young of Nautical Almanac, the group is now co-run by the noise wizard John Olson, both men with visions toward finding new ways to make drum machines, guitars and handmade instruments sound absolutely nothing like they should. Their prolific output, including dozens of cassette releases and various full-lengths scattered across the spectrum, none of them sounding anywhere close to the rest of the discography, is prove that they’re tapped into something special. —Robert Ham

7. Wolf Alice
Wolf Alice supposedly took their name from a short story by Angela Carter that co-founder Ellie Rowsell stole from her school library. The tale of a wild girl who cannot be tamed by nuns and discovers her independence while trapped in a vampire’s lair seems an apt analogy for a genre-busting rock band with a strong female voice out front. Early singles like the hard-charging “Moaning Lisa Smile” and the dreamier “Bros” (“Raised by wolves and other beasts, I tell you all the time I’m not mad…”) captured our attention and established a wide sonic stage for Roswell and co-founder Jeff Oddie to play on, and they’ve only strengthened it on this year’s rock-solid Visions of a Life. A danceable beat undergirds “Beautifully Unconventional,” while “Yuk Foo” offers a kind of manifesto for all those girls who’d take the vampire over the nun: “You bore me, you bore me to death / well deplore me, no I don’t give a shit.” —Matthew Oshinsky

6. Wolf People
The constituent elements of Wolf People’s sound are right there on the surface—‘70s folk, psychedelic rock of all stripes, a touch of early Sabbath/Hawkwind and the influence of the current school of solo acoustic guitar masters. The mystery that comes with this U.K. quartet’s sound is how they’re able mold new shapes out of these well-loved pieces. Their four albums, including last year’s masterwork Ruins, finds them refining and casting new light on these fantastic shapes that they conjure up. And it provides the perfect foundation for some impressive guitar pyrotechnics from Jack Sharp and Joe Hollick. —Robert Ham

5. Peanut Butter Wolf
One of the brightest talents of the old-school-is-new-again hip-hop wave of the 1990s, Peanut Butter Wolf often slips through the cracks of history. For one, he was always more of a producer than a rapper, helming records by Kool Keith and overseeing the talent on his own Stones Throw Records label. But he’s also a top-class beat-maker, an architect of velvety tracks that swell and crackle with jazz tones, strings, vintage scrubbing and perfectly selected samples. His strictly instrumental records, including 1994 solo debut Peanut Butter Breaks, are worth the price of admission, but it’s his collaboration with the late MC Charizma, who was murdered before the duo could really lift off, that offers the clearest distillation of Wolf’s talent. Twenty years later, Stones Throw is still putting out outstanding hip-hop, psych, and experimental releases from its headquarters in Los Angeles. —Matthew Oshinsky

4. Peter Wolf
Most famous for his stint as the frontman of the J. Geils Band from 1967 to 1983, Peter Wolf (née Blankfield) has an impressive career in his own right. In fact, at age 71 opening for Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Wolf ran around the stage, into the crowd and on top of amplifiers and drums while delivering decades worth of fast-talking hits in perfect pitch. The only thing more impressive than energetic delivery is the longevity of his bluey, rock ‘n’ roll hits with J. Geils and solo. —Hilary Saunders

3. Wolfmother
Australian riff monsters Wolfmother are one of only two bands on this list with a one-word name, which is to say that it’s not as easy as it might seem to put “wolf” into something and make it sound good. The fact that the other mononymous band is Steppenwolf makes sense: Both evoke a kind of militaristic Medieval Times vibe, where everyone is wearing moose pelts and gnawing at charred turkey legs through their braided beards. Whenever those guys battle Vikings, the soundtrack blasting in their Bluetooth earbuds is Wolfmother, especially the first record from 2005, with its pummeling Sabbath chug and third-generation Zeppelin wailing courtesy of Andrew Stockdale. In a testament to the unlikely versatility of Wolfmother’s ‘70s psych assault, it turns out it’s also the perfect accompaniment for a blackjack scene in a buddy comedy. —Matthew Oshinsky

2. Wolf Parade
Thank goodness Wolf Parade are back together and back in our speakers with the new Cry Cry Cry, because there was a time, nearly a decade ago already, when it seemed like they were the only band of the aughts’ garage-rock revival who were actually realizing the promise of that scene with every release. From the angular experimentalism of their 2005 debut Apologies to the Queen Mary to the immaculate pop landscapes of 2008’s At Mount Zoomer to the icier textures of 2010’s Expo 86, co-leaders Spencer Krug and Dan Boeckner always had one foot in the Spoon playbook and the other in their own distinctive construct of new wave and indie rock. And then they went away for seven years while some of the bands they came up with gradually lost the thread of what made that decade exciting in the first place. Now they’re back with Cry Cry Cry, and all the sure-footed pop stylings and effortless melodies are back with them. —Matthew Oshinsky

1. Howlin’ Wolf
The man born Chester Arthur Burnett, later dubbed Howlin’ Wolf, is not just one of the most important bluesmen, but also one of the most important figures in the history of American music. Born in rural Clay County, Miss., he got his start in the 1930s listening to Charlie Patton at local juke joints. But after moving to Chicago, Wolf became one of the most famous voices of the Chicago blues by electrifying the sound of the genre. Songs like “Smokestack Lightning” and “Killing Floor” eventually worked their way into the canon of blues-rock standards. —Hilary Saunders

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