Perhaps I can interest you in one of our signature dishes: a choice selection of adulatory paragraphs directed at a band on whom I clearly have a massive man-crush. That comes with a healthy side of the narcissistic obsession I have with my own words, lightly drizzled in a pretentious musician sauce. All of this of course served on a bed of my relentless fixation with all things relating to heavy metal. And for dessert, the meal is topped off with a piping hot cup of critical commentary about the metal scene and what's wrong with it today, served alongside a slice of self-righteousness - marinated to perfection in pop culture references.
Excellent choice, if I may say so. Coming right up!
This is going to sound bad, but After the Burial is one of those bands I keep forgetting about. Not in the sense that I completely forget the day I bought In Dreams or the week I had "Aspiration" (Rareform re-release version) basically on a loop. But when I think of bands I want to listen to during my commute or at the gym or what have you, I just keep forgetting they're in the mix somewhere waiting to be queued up. Me, of all people!
But that forgetfulness allowed me a pleasant surprise: hearing about their latest album only a few short days before it was to be released. Instead of months of crossed fingers, I had less than a week to enjoy the two tracks they had already posted: "Of Fearful Men" and "A Wolf Amongst Ravens." These two tracks made me genuinely hopeful for the quality of this release, and I'm happy to announce that Wolves Within delivers the goods like a really good good-deliverer.
"Anti-Pattern" kicks things off with a half-second of bending guitar strings that almost sounds like the revving of an engine before a quick drum solo smashes the door down like an axe-wielding lumberjack. Then the guitars jump in to a staggered pattern of riffs that are as heavy as they are head-bobbingly catchy, and the hypothetical lumberjack from the previous sentence announces he's traveled 500 miles to bring you his seed.
|A reference for this reference.|
|Guitarist Trent Hafdahl performing the crowdpleaser: "Split Ends"|
However, one thing I was slightly dismayed to see was the absence of any clean vocals, and I know that might sound a little heretical. In Dreams featured a very light amount of clean vocals, primarily on "Pendulum" and "To Carry You Away." I felt those moments - brief though they were - added a dimension to the album that would have been lacking otherwise, and frankly I expected to see it return on Wolves Within. It's hardly a deal-breaker, but I was hoping for a little more variety in that department.
Anyone who's read my blog before knows I like to pontificate about the state of the metal scene and decry how everyone seems to want to decry everything else. It's a bad habit, but it has its uses; for example, sometimes you can use the lack of negative response to a given album as an indicator of its quality. It's not a perfect measurement, some people will always find something to be upset about. But when a new album drops and you're actually hard pressed to find someone drinking the Hater-ade, you know you've found something exceptional. From what I've seen, response from fans and critics alike has been overwhelmingly positive towards Wolves Within....turns out there's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo; and it's worth fighting for.
There are a few moments on Wolves Within that reminded me of other artists - "Disconnect" reminded me of some of Volumes' work, for example. And the mix in several places put me in mind of Monuments' debut album Gnosis. None of that should imply that After the Burial is "ripping off" anyone else; quite the opposite. One of the strengths of Wolves Within is how deftly different defining qualities emerge and evolve throughout its run time - there's even a vaguely Iron Maiden-like hook in "Virga" right after former lead vocalist Nick Wellner's guest spot (right around the 1:43 mark).
|I made this, I want everyone to see it, and I couldn't really think of a clever way to work it into the rest of the review so, here.|
Besides, doesn't your grandma need some new tunes to jam while she's making jam?