This doesn’t feel like Gnarwolves’ first full-length. This is a band that has been on the horizon for a long time coming, with a bevy of great tracks and a refined, hard-hitting sound. Its a wonder one band could cultivate such a reputation on the strength of three EPs alone. Yet, they have, and as with each subsequent release, their self-titled only solidifies them further as one of the best bands on the scene today.
I always likened Gnarwolves’ sound to something like melodic hardcore put through the grinder of post-hardcore and emo and then put on a skateboard and sent down the biggest hill in town. Their guitars chug and ring out, expand and contract, pluck single notes, and thrash sick riffs throughout their body of work, maintaining a sense of variety and athleticism to their music that mimics the versatility of human emotion. And of the latter, there is a lot. Snapshots of everyday life and struggles are screamed, sung, and gang vocaled across sticky melodies that work just as hard as the instruments.
Gnarwolves’ melding of melodic hardcore sonics and post-hardcore emotion is at the core of their self-titled. “Prove It” is a vicious album opener filled with self deprecation and jagged riffs. It’s relentless in its ferocity, where lines like “By all means be a slob, lay around and quit your job,” cut with venom. It’s not a far cry from the aggressive introspection of Against Me! and bands of their ilk.
“Boneyard” is a standout on Gnarwolves’ self-titled, complete with the balls-in-your-face punk they’re known for, finished with emocore intensity. While the song would’ve been a great tune on that alone, its Gnarwolves’ complete unabashed urge to be heavy that let’s it transcend. “Boneyard” ends with a sludgy section of thick power chords riffing at the gates of desolation. Moments like that bring Gnarwolves into a whole new realm of musicians. We love punk rock because anyone can pick it up and play it, but not everyone has the creativity and range of influences to make good on the freedom inherent in the concept. This is a band that writes a song and then fills in the instrumentals with the question: “Wouldn’t it be cool if…?” And then they act on it. They bring it to fruition, because, fuck yeah: it would be cool. It brings a level of enthusiasm and a broader spectrum of emotion to a style of punk that can be plagued with one note adherence to form. This is a raw, emotional band, and its refreshing to see a band as interesting musically as they are lyrically.
The choruses are out of this world. “Smoking Kills” is an anthem. I can hear myself screaming “I smoked a cigarette” in the middle of a sticky pit. “Ebb” and “Flow” form a duo of songs, the first of which is a slower track driven by a distant drum beat. It graduates into something epic and powerful in the second half, exploding into a mid-tempo boiler. The seamless change between the tracks hinges on a drum fill that bridges the gap effortlessly, making way for the latter tracks faster tempo and metallic riffs.
Gnarwolves’ self-titled is a damn masterpiece. Its hard to believe that this is their first full-length outing. There’s a mature sense of accomplishment in literally aspect of the band’s music. For the longest time, I had it in my head that punk bands could be cold-sounding technical musicians, or three-chord emotional waterfalls. Its not true, but its easy to see how so many bands can fall into such linear categories. You focus too much on one and you sound like robots playing odd-tempos and jazz scales, and then on the other you’re just screaming over chords. Bands that can do both, be musically interesting and emotionally investing, are in a league of their own. But beyond all of that is the inherent energy that fuels Gnarwolves; they rock with palpable feeling, they bring a weight and level of intensity to their work that made me realize that I hadn’t heard a punk band sound this damn angry in a long time.
Here’s to staying mad.