There are three reasons why I couldn't resist checking out the debut full-length album from Norwegian quartet Wolves Like Us: first, I'm a massive fan of Scandinavian hard rock and metal of any kind; second, I'm drawn to anything wolf-inspired (as my fellow FEARnet scribe Drew Daywalt would say, the werewolf is my "Power Monster"); and third, as you can see in the photo above, their bass player is a dead ringer for Bill Moseley as Otis B. Driftwood in The Devil's Rejects. So now you know they hooked me, but you're probably wondering if they managed to reel me in. (Sorry, I'm kinda mixing my metaphors... wolves don't usually go fishing, do they?) Well, you gotta turn the page to find out, so hit that jump for our review...
First of all, don't be misled by the title; these ain't love songs by any stretch of the imagination... that is, unless you're talking about the pain of love violently lost, because that's the vibe these cats generate. Composed of seasoned veterans from bands like Amulet, Infidels Forever, JR Ewing and Silver, the Wolves roam far beyond the borders of hardcore and into the dark realms previously explored by epic metallers like Mastodon and Gojira, employing heavy but hooky riffs and rough-edged but melodically solid vocals, but they also stir some subtle pop elements into the mix, particularly in the rhythms. That approach actually keeps the songs from getting dragged down by the doomy mood, and finds a cool balance between light and darkness.
That balancing act comes through best in tracks like "Secret Handshakes," which has an incredibly catchy chorus and powerful vocal harmonies that tie the musical textures together. The ominous "Deathless" is another great example of the way they interweave straight-up dark rock and rough-edged chunky metal, with haunted vocals soaring over the top, making it a perfect choice for the album's first single, and bringing it alongside "Handshakes" and "Gone to Dust" as the album's standout cuts. Another interesting choice is a cover of "My Enemy" from '90s alt-rockers Afghan Whigs, whose 1996 album Black Love could easily be one of the band's more moody, quirky influences. In case you're thinking this band is sticking to a straight rock template, just wait for the colossal eight-minute closing cut "To Whore With Foreign Gods," a sweeping, atmospheric metal mini-symphony that will simultaneously seduce your senses and split your skull. I think these dudes are making damn sure you don't forget where they came from, but also showing you they're not afraid to explore further.
The steady energy, variety and sonic balance in Late Love puts this band a furry head above many of this year's hard rock contenders, and several of the tracks here are catchy enough to earn their stripes both in and outside hardcore metal circles. Definitely worth checking out on a cool Autumn night.
The band is currently working on a new video for "Secret Handshakes," so expect to see that one pop up soon... but right now we'll play you out with "Deathless," definitely one of the best tracks on the album.