Wolvves’ latest record Paradox Valley has been a long time coming: it was released nearly two years after the Phoenix-based afro-grunge act’s last record Whatever. But it has been well worth the wait. Stellar frontman and lead songwriter Aydin Immortal seems to have finally hit the right notes to produce a punk sound that is distinctly hip-hop and filled with all kinds of attitude.
The evolution of Wolvves from their beginnings back in 2012 to where they are today has been an adventure to say the least. But one thing that has never suffered through all four records, innumerable membership turnovers, controversy, announced breakups, and bravado has been the songwriting. And each record has shown a blatantly obvious musical maturation in the band’s only constant member, Immortal.
Paradox Valley is different enough from Wolvves’ previous work that it delivers a taste of something fresh while still remaining faithful to the sound that longtime Wolvves fans have become accustomed to. There is garage rock, surf rock, hip-hop, and grunge — all molded into an aesthetic that is still completely punk.
Immortal has always had a penchant for rhyme in his lyrics, always in an undeniably hip-hop cadence, but with this new record the brazen performer seems to abandon a lot of pretense he held onto in Whatever and Go Demon or Go Home and go balls out with the hip-hop overtones.
The album’s third track “With My Niggas” and sixth track “Into It” are great examples of how the band is going in a more hip-hop direction. They have done rap-style tracks (like “Sage” off of Whatever) in the past. But never has the group really released a straight up hip-hop song until Paradox Valley. Never fear, punk purists: there are still plenty of guitars on those tracks.
Tracks like “Ivory Drive,” “Bouquet of Lightning,” and “Harriets” do heavily resemble what the band seemed to have been going for on Whatever. They possess a dreamy, almost psychedelic, retro quality that the group had in spades on their 2014 release. But the lyrics and rhythms are coming in just a little more clearly than they did last time around.
Track 7 “Gasoline” and the album’s final track “Billie Holiday” are the two songs that give the album that signature Wolvves edge and harken back to their first release, the EP Live Forever. Both tracks hit hard and fast and make you just want to get in the mosh pit and feel the music punch you in the gut.
But “Gasoline” comes with a bridge unlike anything Wolvves has done before. It’s got to be the most emotionally evocative tracks the group has ever made, with Immortal laying bare many of his more complex emotions before letting it all break down in a blazing guitar solo.
The album is altogether amazing for a band like Wolvves who are just starting to really fight their way into the national music spotlight. The record is concise, easy to listen to all the way through, and just dripping with the same attitude that has made all of their music so engrossing. Perhaps they have reached their final form as a raucous 3-piece, or maybe Aydin Immortal still has plans to revamp his band’s sound. But either way, they are definitely heading in the right direction with Paradox Valley.
Wolvves is currently on tour and coming up fast on their first ever trip to New York City. They will play The Cake Shop on September 27th and Aviv on September 28th.
4.5 / 5 Stars
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