Review Summary: A mysterious, brooding album with the allure of an ancient folktale.
Forging a unique path in the alternative rock genre is no easy undertaking. The task only gets more difficult when your lead singer sounds almost identical to that of a prominent band in the scene. Thus, it comes as a rather big surprise that The Republic of Wolves’ very first EP, His Old Branches
has had such a lasting appeal. Endless comparisons have been made between lead singer Mason Maggio and Brand New’s Jesse Lacey, and they sound so similar that even Lacey-obsessed zealots had trouble deciphering the difference between the two on early demos. Despite this obstacle, The Republic of Wolves have created a timeless work by successfully fusing the heaviest elements of a band like Brand New with a sound that is distinctly folk
This folk sound can be directly traced to the band’s primary founders: Christian Van Deurs and Mason Maggio. The pair of vocalists are original members of the indie-folk band Tigers on Trains, and their influence on His Old Branches
is overarching. When the aforementioned duo joined forces with Gregg Andrew Dellarocca, Chris Wall, and bassist Billy Dupree in 2009, The Republic of Wolves was formed. The group of five began to experiment with a sound that was “different, heavier, and more dynamic” than Maggio and Van Deur’s prior endeavors. His Old Branches
delivers on all of these fronts, while also showing the band’s knack for writing contemplative, myth-influenced lyrics.
Considering the mindset out of which the EP was conceived, His Old Branches
is a surprisingly eclectic affair. There are moments of brilliant reflection, and even more frequently, there are times when bassist Billy Dupree sounds like he is screaming for his immortal soul. The album seems to intensify as it progresses, with “Done Haunting Houses” kicking things off in a glum, shadowy fashion and “Spill” following that up with disjointed, despairing screams of “You can’t blame anyone for what you’ve done!
” The blood curdling shrieks that close out “A Weather Vane” illustrate the concentrated and forceful nature present throughout His Old Branches
, with chunky, distorted riffs that coincide with each shrill scream and each aggressive drum beat.
The album doesn’t lose any steam, however, on the more peaceful tracks. Despite their calm nature, songs like “The Clouds” and “For His Old Branches” pack a punch with their smooth tempo transitions and story-telling lyrics. This is probably most evident in the title track, on which Mason Maggio wails, “There is a tree you cannot cut
/ He knows your name and all your fears
/ You dare not lay an axe to his old branches
” and “We left our shoes under the ground
/ Tied yellow feathers to our arms
/ And learned the language of the aching mountain
.” There is perhaps no better fusion of lyrical excellence and atmospheric elements than on “Through Windows”, as Mason Maggio confronts his religious crisis: “God, I’m afraid of the songs you’ve been singing me
/ God I cannot hear your voice quite so clearly.
/ And I am the walls crumbling down.
.” The song alternates between eerily howled verses and screaming choruses accompanied by shredding electric guitars. It all ends on a harmonious note, with a short but breathtaking acoustic guitar section. At over seven minutes in length, “Through Windows” is an epic track worthy of closing out the experience that is His Old Branches
After just one EP, The Republic of Wolves have proven themselves to be advanced musicians, songwriters, and lyricists. They successfully combined the indie-folk sound of Tigers on Trains with a heavier, edgier Brand New influenced style. Moreover, they managed to fuse together these two very
different styles flawlessly, as the EP has exceptional flow between songs and within individual tracks. This is definitely one of the best new bands in alternative rock, and if His Old Branches
is any indication, The Republic of Wolves will be around for a long, long time.