The Republic of Wolves
Varuna


4.5
superb

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
November 29th, 2010 | 182 replies


Release Date: 2010 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A truly haunting debut, Varuna is a testament to the creativity and ambition that sets The Republic of Wolves apart from their alt-rock peers.

When The Republic of Wolves dropped their EP His Old Branches in late 2009, they made an emphatic footprint on the grounds of the alt-rock genre. Their sound, while undeniably similar to that of Brand New, was also indisputably advanced. Just look at the bare facts: if you are a band of relative nobodies creating low quality studio recordings that are being mistaken for Daisy demos, you are doing something right. Furthermore, The Republic of Wolves established a unique flair that prevented critics from dismissing them as Jesse Lacey zealots hoping to ride on the coattails of a very successful act. By infusing traces of spiritual folk music and showcasing their storytelling lyrics, The Republic of Wolves made His Old Branches easy to digest, interesting to listen to, and rewarding from both an instrumental and lyrical perspective. The band’s masterful execution in just about every aspect of their music allowed them to take complete ownership of the EP and dictate its direction, which resulted in some of the most bone chilling, inspired rock seen in years. Thus, it came as no surprise when The Republic of Wolves took their place among the most promising new bands in music. That brings us to the present day, where they have self-released their full length debut Varuna to the masses.

Varuna essentially picks up where His Old Branches left off. It is very dark and foreboding by nature, with echoing vocals, downtrodden acoustic guitars, and thunderous drum beats. However, there are a few subtle improvements that elevate this LP’s quality above that of its preceding EP. One will notice from the beginning that the band utilizes a great deal of restraint in their songwriting. On His Old Branches, they would often abuse the soft-to-loud formula and sometimes they seemed to get lost while trying to find a balance between their acoustic side and their heavier side. On the contrary, Varuna is meticulously crafted, with all of its echoing atmospheres, electric guitars, and acoustic ballads carefully mingling like an intricately woven blanket. Appropriately enough, this first becomes evident on “Woolen Blankets”, which, despite a dreary, monotonous start gradually builds to a crescendo of heavy drumming and crashing electric guitars. It is the ultimate instrumental climax, and it is never as choppy or sudden as past songs like “Spill.” The Republic of Wolves also show a clear progression in terms of the record’s production. Varuna still sounds quite raw at times, as per the band’s desired effect; but the balance between instruments and the clarity of each spine tingling scream is vastly improved. On a record that might be defined by its tangible atmosphere and fable-like storyline, the minor (but noticeable) improvements in the album’s mixing go a long way in making Varuna what it is: an indescribably beautiful sequence of dark, nightmarish atmospheres that will draw one’s mind to its darkest corner.

For those who have never heard The Republic of Wolves’ music, Varuna is still an excellent starting point for what should be a long and prosperous career for the young band. Songs like “Sea Smoke” and “Pitch and Resin” illustrate the band’s acoustic prowess which can be traced back to Mason Maggio’s and Christian Van Deur’s humble beginnings with the indie-folk phenomena Tigers on Trains. The Republic of Wolves’ darker edge can really be felt throughout the album’s entirety, with the blazing title track of an album opener, “Varuna”, setting the tone immediately for later moments such as the furious, hell-bent screams of “Greek Fire.” The band is perhaps at their best, however, when they take the immense scope that is Varuna’s atmosphere and expand its sonic palette with haunting sound effects. The best example of this is undoubtedly the French titled song “Tuez Le Tous, Dieu Reconnaitra Les Siens”, which for those interested in its meaning, loosely translates to, “Kill them all, God will recognize his people.” The song commences with discordant acoustic strumming, followed by Maggio’s croons of, “So we played our game, and we dug our grave, shouting curses at the dirt until the messiah showed his face.” To call the song a slow burner wouldn’t be quite accurate, because when the song hits its stride, it doesn’t burn with an electric guitar riff or a moment of instrumental intensity…it scares the living hell out of you. Like a blacksmith’s hammer tempering a sword, the sound of pounding metal enters in the background accompanied by the sound of rattling, dragging chains that seem to mimic a spirit wandering the earth for thousands of years, his tortured soul bound to the Earth by the weight of his sins. These are the kinds of images that Varuna is capable of conjuring up in one’s mind, and it inspires what is, quite frankly, frightening thoughts on an astoundingly consistent basis. And the best part is, they can do it in a number of ways: screaming, singing, humming…even just the instruments can speak to the listener in such a way that the dark, dispirited aura of Varuna is on constant display.

If Varuna has a fault, it is that the album is so intensely focused on itself that it leaves room open for more variation. Because the record is something of a concept album, with thematic ties between the music and the lyrics, it tends to take on a centrally unifying sound. Of course, this also serves to the album’s biggest strength: it’s gloomy, bitter atmosphere. But it still stands to reason that The Republic of Wolves could have incorporated a greater scope of styles, seeing as Varuna tends to focus on the one style in particular that the band has mastered. This speculation can be fueled to an even greater extent by fans who have heard what Maggio and Van Deurs are capable of with nothing but an acoustic guitar in hand, as the two were able to compose a completely natural and uplifting aura on their past endeavor’s debut, Grandfather. However, this is more of a what if scenario in terms of what could have accentuated Varuna’s darker moments, and it doesn’t take anything away from what this immense album accomplishes with striking efficiency.

As a whole, Varuna stands as one of the best debut albums to be released by any band in the past few years. The Republic of Wolves take what made the EP His Old Branches so engaging, improve some minor flaws in their songwriting and production, and mix in some of their own indie-folk influences. What we end up with is a profound, sweeping accomplishment by a band that has found its identity and has already taken off running with its unique ideas and sky-high ambitions. The Republic of Wolves have shown that they are more than just a Brand New cover band, and they now have one hell of a debut album in Varuna to prove it. These guys are for real.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
November 29th 2010


15993 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

http://music.aol.com/new-releases-full-cds/#/7

stream.


Still kind of combing through this to find errors, but yeah...this is amazing. Listen and enjoy.

Digging: Sharon Van Etten - Are We There

couldwinarabbit
November 29th 2010


6996 Comments


holy review batman. I guess you went more than 24 hours without one so you had to make it up Pos.

couldwinarabbit
November 29th 2010


6996 Comments


that was a smiley face but sputnikmusic hates happiness.

Crymsonblaze
November 29th 2010


7480 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Really enjoyed their EP, bout to listen to this. Good review as always!

Dev518
November 29th 2010


573 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Good review. There's definitely a huge Brand new influence, but i think that these guys have proven that they are their own band.

fr33convict
November 29th 2010


11689 Comments


will get this, pos with main, troll neg seven times with alts.

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
November 29th 2010


15993 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

thanks guys. yeah they def sound like BN but theyve also expanded their sound a lot

slaythesocialists
November 29th 2010


171 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

This review basically sums up how i feel, hoping to get my own review out once finals are over....anyways album is
awesome as is the review

Schizophrenik
November 29th 2010


842 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Oh shit, this is out? need immediately.

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
November 29th 2010


15993 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

def. worth buying IMO, but if you want to hear it now, i posted a link to the stream in my first comment

Schizophrenik
November 29th 2010


842 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah i'm listening now. I was looking forward to this but had completely forgotten about it

couldwinarabbit
November 29th 2010


6996 Comments


I'm excited for getting this.


Crymsonblaze
November 29th 2010


7480 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

So just finished it, this album's amazing.

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
November 29th 2010


15993 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

i dont know if those two 1's are troll ratings or not but there's no way this is a 1

Schizophrenik
November 29th 2010


842 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

definitely troll ratings

Dev518
November 29th 2010


573 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

They're from over a month before the album came out, so probably.

slaythesocialists
November 29th 2010


171 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

also this should really be on best new music

Schizophrenik
November 29th 2010


842 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Man I had wanted to review this but I would probably give it a similar rating to yours so it would be kinda pointless now

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
November 29th 2010


15993 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

do it anyway man

Jips
November 29th 2010


1129 Comments


this sounds fucking cool... your review has got me convinced to give this a listen...



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