Written by: The Administrator
Let's start with the obvious. As anyone you has listened to their music will attest, attempting to pigeonhole or pin down Horned Wolf in the span of a mere introductory paragraph (or, indeed, the span of a whole review) is a fairly fruitless activity. This crew demonstrates little regard for genre expectation or compositional convention on Become Like They Are, and, as a result, their work sticks out from the crowd in a big way. To be markedly different and hence produce unique results is always an excitingly quality. Refreshing, even.
I'll be upfront: I've spent a lot of time with this album this year. A scary amount. If it tops my list o' most listened albums, I won't be surprised in the slightest. If the brilliant title track isn't my most consumed song of the year, I'll eat my boots. Paradoxically, though, this obsessive listening has been to the detriment of my actual ability to wrap up the review. The "listening for enjoyment" phase never really ended, and the "listening for writing" phase never truly began in earnest. In retrospect, this is obviously a Very Good problem to have, as much of the time spent with Become Like They Are has been pure and unadulterated by notions of my own imposed narrative framing or turns of phrase. But! In any case, here we are. Let's get the fuck into it already.
Typically, when a band claims in their bio a proclivity to seamlessly fuse multiple styles, we slumbering scribes are left disappointed by either a lack of variety in genre, or an inability to offer a genuine fusion of styles. Horned Wolf deftly avoid this trap. They are so damn good at serving a cauldron of genres and styles that even now, I am genuinely left uncertain as to how to categorize this album. To grossly plagiarize my own work from a release day mini-review, Horned Wolf "elect to provide a collection of tracks defined less by sonic compatibility and more by snarling 'tude and the sheer power of Sav MangelsDorf's dynamic vocals. With elements of bluesy doom, to sludge, to pop-laden prog, to borderline death belligerence, Become Like They Are presents an exceedingly unpredictable journey, and that is a quality I very much enjoy."
Each track feels like a standalone single unto itself, but by some wild alchemy the album does stand as a cohesive unit. Opener "You're Boring" fires things off with boot-stomping punk riffage that quickly wades into aggressive waters with the inclusion of harsh vocals that simultaneously complement and act as a foil to the cleans. A doomier back half slows things down, putting a damper on the upbeat vibe--an unexpected choice, but a smart one. This shift leads nicely into the downtempo "Bloodlines," which brings to play a proto-doom groove and animalistic vox. A lightfooted midsection delivers fuzzed-out vocal delivery and a tasteful bounce that wouldn't feel out of place on a psych rock project. The aforementioned title track, driven by a a crisp forward momentum, drops a veritable banquet of hooky grooves laced with progressive sensibility Across the almost-seven-minute-runtime, the mood shifts from high-energy freneticism to emotive balladry and back again with nary a backward glance. There's an odd pop-punky thing going on, and an onslaught of fairly brutal gutturals. It shouldn't work, but goddamn, it works like a charm. The unassuming "Charnel House" kicks up the mournful vibe and lets it run for a stretch, while still maintaining a delightful sense of engagement. The fake-out towards the end is one of my favorite moments on the album, and demonstrates beautifully how easily Horned Wolf shake up the perceived trajectory of a track.
For sake of brevity I'll stop with these few examples and allow you to discover the remainder on your own, but rest assured, the same clever unpredictability is significantly present in the tracks not mentioned.
While the instrumentation is on point across the breadth, particularly in the moments of intense transition, the true star of the show is undeniably Sav's vocal chops. No joke: the sheer range of their delivery and style is something no one can really prepare themselves for. Their ability to switch between crystal-clear cleans to visceral screams to throaty howls affords the whole project an extended level of dynamism. Everything feels fresh. Everything is remarkably entertaining. It's like listening to a band with a revolving carousal of talented vocalists, albeit with an underlying thread of consistency. The sheer power behind Sav's delivery is equal parts intoxicating and frightening, and if there's anything I can find to nitpick about this project, it is the fact that the vocals are almost too fascinating. Before eventually approaching familiarity with each song's instrumental nuances, I was often fixated on what the vocals were doing, failing to take in the track as a whole.
Saying more at this stage will likely do little to direct additional ears in the direction of this outstanding album, and so I'll bring things to a quick conclusion. Bottom line: Horned Wolf are a very talented lot. Become Like They Are is a lush and vibrant and punchy and emotive and chaotic album. If you enjoy metal music that doesn't stick to the rules, that feels unrestrained, that capitalizes on its own individualistic energy, Become Like They Are is most certainly worth your while. I won't pretend that the style is essential, or a perfect fit for everyone's tastes. I will, however, be damned if this album doesn't continue to blow me away. Become Like They Are comes highly recommended.
Horned Wolf - Become Like They Are was released June 24th.Find it here!
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that wakes us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry.