The Great Year by DirewolvesRelease date: May 26, 2017
Label: Throatruiner Records
Direwolves have been smashing the modern post-hardcore / screamo scene for quite some time now, and The Great Year shows that they have lost none of their fire, and have learned some new tricks since their last release, the fantastic 2014 full length Aegri Somnia – which is also highly recommended, if you haven’t checked it out yet. This mini-album consists of 6 songs which zip by in 19 minutes, but which manage to pack in more emotional resonance than most full-length albums.
The overall sound of the record is reminiscent of the epic and spiky post-hardcore of label-mates Birds In Row, crossed with the massive sound of scream heroes such as Jeromes’ Dream and latter day Neil Perry, with touches of the post-metal leanings of fellow countrymen Aussitot Mort, and a slightly unexpected flavour of sadly defunct post-metal band Light Bearer in the tone of the guitars, especially in some of the slower sections – see the gorgeous and emotional mid-section to standout song ‘Road to Metnal’ for example – it’s part Light Bearer restraint and part Deftones scale and an unexpectedly beautiful ending to a song that starts with conventional d-beat bluster. It’s a surprisingly luscious and complex aural palette to engage with, for what is ostensibly a punk rock band. The passion with which the vocals are screamed adds an additional level of authenticity to the music; lyrically the record is in a pretty dark place, with themes of depression and isolation, and the throat-shredding delivery emphasises this, sounding both furious and vulnerable at the same time.
‘Unpoisoned’ is a wonderful opener – urgent and aggressive, underpinned by powerful drums but with a groovy and melodic chorus section which is reminiscent of self-titled era Deftones which really gets the head bobbing. The production on the record is great; well positioned and powerful drums drive through the thick guitars and bass, and the vocals are nestled in the mix – perfectly audible but still giving that feeling that the voice is fighting the other instrumentation, again adding authenticity to the furious delivery. The guitar tone is part aggressive hardcore and part sludgy post-metal, creating a scale and space that some post-hardcore records miss; this is used to real effect during the chorus and closing section of ‘From Tomb to Womb’ as the track slows to a lumbering crawl, with some lovely tremolo picking proving momentum and tone. ‘Ascent’ is built around a cracking riff which appears about half way through – post-hardcore is sometimes guilty of forgetting about the simple joy of ‘the riff’, but not Direwolves. I genuinely pulled a face the first time I heard it.
Even more impressively the band demonstrate a palpable restraint by not overusing this device, and actually pulling back to a muted outro, maintaining the intensity and impact. It’s smart song-writing that encourages the listener to go and hit the replay button. Also – I don’t usually comment on such things, but the artwork is fantastic. I don’t usually buy 12” LPs for anything less than a 30 minute runtime, but I will for this because the art is just so good!
Overall, The Great Year is a triumph of a record. Every ingredient is great – humble songwriting that understands the value of dynamics and can deliver an emotional punch, passionate performance, spot-on production that accentuates the former and a lovely piece of art to look at while drinking in the sound. My only complaint is that I wish it was a full-length and I fervently hope we won’t have to wait another three years to get more. It is a passionate, emotive ride through 19 minutes of angst, delivering a pitch perfect blend of angry d-beat style hardcore, emotional post-hardcore and soaring Deftones style alt-metal tones that pulled me in from the first chord to the until the final sound faded in my headphones. Definitely recommended.