Review Summary: A glimpse into both the future and the past, "Malevelont Grain" certainly lacks context but is a strong effort from one of the best USBM bands nonetheless.
With two critically acclaimed LP's under their belt, Wolves seem to be on the brink of....well, something completely different. The "trve" fans are probably crying in outrage that they've changed their logo so that you can actually read it and the more casual fans might just be put off by what this EP shows. Showing a little bit of what the future might hold and the ground they've already treaded, Malevolent Grain is bound to divide fans for a variety of reasons.
Let's start off with what may be the most controversial aspect of the new era of WitTR, which is the first track, "A Looming Resonance". For the first time in Wolves' history, this song contains only clean vocals and this is what seems to be dividing fans. The thing is, the vocals on here aren't like the beautifully haunting ones found on "Cleansing", the standout track from their previous LP, but are rather flat sounding in comparison. Initially, the vocals seem much worse than they actually are due to how radically different it sounds from anything they've done in the past. But, give it some time and the voice gradually seems to make more sense within the realm of all that is Wolves in the Throne Room.
Musically, "A Looming Resonance" is a pretty standard WitTR affair, which is always a good thing. The intro haunting guitar riff is present basically through the entire song and yet it somehow doesn't get old. However, after numerous listens, I can't help but feel that they are holding back on this song on purpose to show off the new vocal style. There is a break about halfway through the song where the drums are just relentlessly assaulted and the guitars are just strumming away, yet the vocals seem to be on repeat and show no more emotion than how it's been in the rest of the song. It's hard not to think that a high placed shriek or more emotive clean vocals would've been much more suited for that part of the song, onward.
While, the first song may be a clue as to what is in store for us on their upcoming LP, "The Black Cascade", "Hate Crystal" shows the side of WitTR that made them what they are today. Despite their conflicting styles, both songs flow quite beautifully into each other and from the get go, your ears are assaulted by all they can throw at you. As a matter of fact, I would go out on a limb and say that "Hate Crystal" is their most intense song yet. There are no pauses, no rest, no breaks or stops at all throughout its ten minutes and never lets up on its relentless attack. This might read like it would be boring or monotonous, but the real thing is much more interesting and you startto feel exhausted from the sonic attack.
Just as you begin to form an opinion on "Malevolent Grain", it's over. "Black Cascade" is merely a month a way so it's hard to tell if the changes implied on here will make an impact on the band's future sound, but for now these two tracks will suffice. While offputting at first, "Malevolent Grain" certainly rewards the more patient listeners if given the chance and while it may not be in the same league of its legendary LP brethren, this EP still contains some of the best USBM has to offer.