When Pinoy rock is mentioned, there are a few bands that stand out in the conversation. But narrow it down to modern-era rock (as opposed to classic rock that the likes of Juan de la Cruz dominated) and Wolfgang is certainly part of royalty.
The list of accolades to prove this is astonishing: Artist of the Year, Album of the Year, Listener's Choice, Guitarist of the Year, Vocalist of the Year, Bassist of the Year, and Drummer of the Year. If that's not enough, they are also one of the few Filipino bands to release an album in two major music markets in Japan and the United States. And because we're such fans, we even asked them to play during 2014's 100 Sexiest Victory Party.
With multiple hits under their belt ("Halik ni Hudas," "Mata ng Diyos," and "Atomica," just to name a few), a lot of their music has understandably either slipped through the cracks or have been forgotten over time (it's been over 20 years since they released their first album). And with frontman Basti Artadi coming out with his illness and the looming possibility of one of OPM's most iconic voices being left without the ability to sing, we would like to pay a small tribute to true rock gods as we list 15 of Wolfgang's most underappreciated songs.
Being the first track of their debut studio album, "Arise" sets the tone perfectly for the Wolfgang sound that Pinoy music fans have learned to love. The song starts off with a rumbling riff that feels like a train barrelling straight towards you. And true enough, the intro transitions into a verse that hits you with such ferocity and tenacity, gaining ground with every chord played and line sung. Midway through, the band eases into a halftime section, offering some respite from the track's furious pace. The song gains momentum once again courtesy of a face-melting riff and solo from Manuel Legarda.
A slightly dirty guitar set against a backdrop of rolling waves eases you into this track. And as soon as Basti's voice enters the mix, you just feel that this glorious intro is building up to something big and epic. The rest of the song doesn't disappoint, giving listeners a full dose of juicy riffs, thumping bass lines, tight drums, and well-written and performed vocals.
"What Grows In Your Garden"
It's puzzling how a three-piece instrument section can sound so heavy. While other rock bands will have at least a second guitar in their lineup (with some even adding another drummer), Wolfgang sounds absolutely crushing with only Legarda, Mon Legaspi, and former drummer Wolf Gemora manning the fort. "What Grows In Your Garden" illustrates how the band can sound heavy and not be overbearing or exhausting to listen to. The drum and bass break at around the 2:20 mark of the track is an absolute headbanger.
True to the song's title, this track is indeed a change from the usual Wolfgang fare. Reminiscent of Pearl Jam's lighter tracks, "Change" is a mix of a lot of different sounds ranging from country to southern rock and even hints of world music. It's refreshing to hear the gang playing unplugged (which they eventually did for an entire performance with Acoustica) while still showing the musical chops the band is known for.
"Cathedral Of Space"
"Cathedral Of Space" is a blues song disguising itself as a rock tune. The guitar ditty during the second verse is gritty, twangy jangly, and, when set against the tightly thumping rhythm section, is perfection. With the awesome arrangement and instrumentation and Basti's first-rate vocals, this track is an absolute delight to listen to and will leave your head bopping for days.
"A Matter Of Time"
Originally coming from their all-English 1997 album, Wurm, we felt it best to include the Acoustica version of this song in the list. Here, the instruments are more subdued, letting Basti's voice shine through. Other elements such as the use of additional percussions and Radha's (of Kulay and The Voice fame) powerful vocals add depth to an otherwise stripped down track making this one of the best local live recordings ever.
In true Wolfgang fashion, this song is a no-frills straight up rock song. It starts off in your face, with Basti showing off his vocal chops and the rest of the band driving the song forward. A restrained middle part does little to remove the taste of pure distorted madness. The song quickly picks up its pace once again and doesn't let up until the last note is played.
"Twist Of Lime"
The bass line that kicks off "Twist Of Lime" is more reminiscent of a funk movement than a traditional driving rock bass. But it should be enough to tell you why Legaspi deserved his multiple Bassist of the Year awards from the now-defunct NU Rock Awards. The song quickly shifts gears, shedding the funk for vicious riffs. The final minute of the song reverts back to the tonal moods that the intro presented and uses that to cap off another amazing track from the quartet.
"Ilang Alon Ang Dala"
Serve in Silence, the quartet's fourth studio release, was released in 1999. That this album tied with Sandwich's Grip Stand Throw ("Butterfly Carnival") for the NU Rock Awards Album of the Year is a testament that there is so much more to this album than the Wolfgang staple, Atomica. Anchored by the ever reliable rhythm section of Legaspi and Gemora, "Ilang Alon Ang Dala" traverses a diverse audio landscape over its five-minute duration. The brilliant use of a phase effect by Legarda really takes this track over the top.
The melodic intro provided by Legarda's perfectly chosen lead notes and the bass harmonics delivered by Legaspi sets this track off on the right foot. The rest of the track is laid-back and shows perfect musical control from the band. The song eventually finds its way to a rocking conclusion that will have you doing your best air guitar or air drum performance while shouting, "Paalam na sa iyo!"
The intro riff of this track is as dirty as you'll get and we mean that in the most flattering of ways. This track shows just how good a riff-maker Legarda is—definitely on the level of his peers like Razorback ax-men David Aguirre and Tirso Ripoll, and even perhaps comparable to the great Wally Gonzales.
"No Falter" was slated to hit the airwaves as the carrier single for their 2001 album, Black Mantra, but was released a bit earlier as it was included in the Final Fantasy movie soundtrack. The track is a moshpit inducing jam from start to finish—a fine specimen of pure, unadulterated rock. That this was included in a motion picture soundtrack speaks volumes about Wolfgang's international appeal.
Guitar plucking and an ethnic drone make this track sound like a folk song more than anything else. In the absence of thundering drums and distorted guitar licks, Artadi's voice gives this song equal parts sensitivity and power needed to push the music forward. The track gradually builds its atmosphere and develops into a wall of sound near the end that envelops you and so you can feel the music, not just hear it. Probably the only bad thing about this song is that it's not longer than it is.
"John Of The Cross"
After a six-year hiatus, Wolfgang proved that they still have a lot left in the tank by releasing their sixth studio album, Villains. Armed with a new drummer and a sound that's as heavy as ever, it seemed as if they never took a break at all. "John of the Cross" is a heavy rock jam that encourages multiple bouts of fist pumping, foot stomping, and headbanging. This track is a testament to the band’s mastery of their craft and their staying power.
Rarely does a band release a seventh album and still be as tight and good, or even better, as their first six. With Ang Bagong Dugo sa Lumang Ugat, Wolfgang gives us more of the same hard-hitting sound that we've come to expect from them, but with a refinement and clarity that shows their experience. "Kandila" is a true rock anthem that should be on every metalhead's playlist.