Wolves & Machines

Since Before Our Time

Written by: TL on 11/03/2014 23:40:14

Once upon a time, back in 2010, a stressed out writer was scrambling to review a record called "Ailments", the debut album of a little known band called Wolves & Machines. He was in a hurry, because End of the Year lists were coming up, and while most of the world didn't know about it, "Ailments" deserved to be on one such list. And it made it, yet most of the world still didn't know, and for that reason perhaps the band faded into what seemed like almost complete dormancy after a while, yet still showing a sign of life with 2012's acoustically reimaginations on the EP "Remedies". Those in the know have hence kept their eyes peeled for a proper successor ever since, which has now arrived in the form of "Since Before Our Time".

Let me caution you though: Before you put this on, you better check your circuitry, because if there's one dominating characteristic to "Since Before Our Time", it is that it will send massive tidal waves of echoing guitar power coursing through you almost relentlessly. Opener "Only Drowning Men" is a clear indication of what's up, starting by sliding feedback up to churning chords of Moving Mountains-esque (on "Waves") proportions, before calming down to let mainman Aaron DeVries introduce the muttered, quieter end of his Brand New-like quiet/loud vocal dynamic. He's accompanied by tasteful clean guitar and glockenspiel, but it doesn't take long before the power is cranked back up to eleven, up where he still powers through with belted notes that make you feel like its your own vocal cords quivering as much as his.

This is merely an appetizer however, which seques seamlessly into "All Alarms", on which we get a tell tale taste of the characteristically howling leads DeVries and his comrades have carried over from "Ailments", all the while the chord harmonies from the rhythm guitar and the pounding of the bass and drums is like a force of nature looming in the background. The soundscape is constantly urgent and emotive, yet it's also towering and muscular in a sense that makes it feel like the band invested all their abilities and production resources in making it sound as super-powered as possible, like a post-rock record where the ratio between build-up and climaxing is reversed.

For this reason, it's a nice breathing spell the listener gets mid-album in form of the halving of the tempo in the anthemic "Hazel" and the dazzling "Drift". We're not quite down in as mellow territory as with "Discords" on the previous album, but it seems there's a similarly intended effect, of allowing us a brief respite before "Like Holding Breath" comes rolling in with more blinding lead riffage and a heart-wrenching, waltzing climax towards the end. The instrumental, horn-backed "Turn To Stone" then leads into another brain-deafening demonstration with "Pulse", before "Many Happy Returns" finally arrives and... well... steals the whole show if you ask me.

With an unusually mellow and traditional beginning, the song channels twinkly midwest emo on the way to a chanted verse, only to peak briefly before settling down once more, and utilizing Wolves & Machines' subtler talent betters than seen anywhere else on the album, it makes the final build up and climax endlessly more impactful. And as it makes you want to roar at the sky, there's an undercurrent of melody that echoes all the way back from somewhere in the middle of the album. To me this is the foremost example of the band's potential, because despite the fact that the album has my ears ringing and my brain buzzing each time I reach this point, it suggests a wholeness to the disc that I keep wanting to go back to look for.

There's something at the edge of my conscience that suggests to me that I'm being conned though, because if I'm honest, listening to "Since Before Our Time" can be exhausting, even if it's in a good way. Granted, "Ailments" required similar persistance to let you encompass its excellent guitar licks and vocal outbursts, but I do wonder if Wolves & Machines aren't actually getting slightly in their own way by neglecting their contemporaries' traditional business of moping around some more in between firing on all cannons. We're dealing with ornamentals here though, because for a band that's flown under the radar the way these guys have, "Since Before Our Time" is a salvo of shocking power, and while I still suspect that the band can do even better if from a more free position than "make or break" mode, this is a thunderbolt which will make you want to get at the lyrics to discover where these crushing waves of urgency stem from.

8

Download: Many Happy Returns, Hazel, Like Holding Breath
For The Fans Of: Moving Mountains, I Am Carpenter, Burn The Fleet, Brand New
Listen: facebook.com/wolvesandmachines

Release date 04.03.2014
Capeside

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