It took me awhile to find some words to say about Wolves at Bay’s newest EP, I Was the Devil Once. Heck, I’m still not sure if I’ve actually found the right words, but at least I think I’m on the path I want to be on. I don’t think I’ve ever felt this conflicted about a release in my entire time as a DyingScene reviewer. On the one hand, Wolves at Bay have managed to put together a collection of six tightly crafted tunes. But on the other hand, there’s nothing in these songs that really makes the EP stick out as something that demands recognition from the scene. I don’t mean that as an insult to the band or to any fans; these are good songs, but the songs here are content with staying at 9 or 10; when what they could really benefit from is going all the way up to eleven.
Again, I don’t mean to give the impression that I Was the Devil Once is an awful release. In fact, it might be one of the best experimental/post-whatever-core releases that I’ve heard since Brand New’s Daisy in 2009 (or at least since Balance and Composure’s Separation) (Also bear in mind that I don’t listen to this genre a whole lot). Wolves at Bay have clearly grown a lot in the last few years, and the songs here reflect that growth. The second track, “Know Why”, (which just might be the best song in this collection) finds a nice balance between catchy and heavy- something that the band attempted to varying degrees on 2011’s Only a Mirror. “Forget Who I Was” and the title track also showcase the band’s growth, blending this newly precise sense of melody with the band’s previously established ability to write a heavy tune.
I Was the Devil Once isn’t all progress though. “Still Afraid” and “Hollow” have the band falling into the familiar territory that they treaded all too often on previous releases. Fans of The Night a Forest Grew might be pleased, but in all honesty it’s much more interesting to hear the band experiment with their new sounds.
Wolves at Bay certainly have what it takes to become a memorable act- I truly believe that. I Was the Devil Once is easily the band’s best release to date, although it still feels like its restraining itself too much at times. There are some solid songs in here, but they’re missing that little extra kick, that little “oomph”, that could launch this EP into being a solid collection as a whole.