Review Summary: “Hope prolongs the torments of man, but it’s all that I've got.”
One of the aspects of music that I find most attractive is just how diverse it can be as a form of expression. This goes for all kinds of moods, feelings and atmospheres that it can invoke, but I’m particularly intrigued by how music founded on bleakness and dissatisfaction can be vastly appealing and infectious despite the unhappiness it presents so clearly. Many of my favourite albums, such as Anathema’s Judgement
and Neurosis’ Through Silver in Blood
, demonstrate tortured or disillusioned perspectives that are so immersive that I find them incredibly compelling. Warren of Ohms’ second album, The Wolf and the Fox
sees the band entering significantly darker territory that utilises this appeal very effectively, and the result is excellent.
For those unfamiliar, Warren of Ohms is a math-rock/hardcore solo project helmed by musician Sammy Gurule. Given the striking amount of energy that is exhibited in pretty much every aspect of this music, this fact come across as somewhat surprising; WoO’s sound is certainly that of a band in full swing. However, coming from my own experience of working with solo projects, an individual vision can be just as vivacious and powerful as a full band’s if it is expressed well and has sufficient passion behind this.
Warren of Ohms’ debut, Untitled
was fun, innovative and visceral affair that was worth investigating, but The Wolf and the Fox
improves on it in many ways. Whilst Untitled
was a skilful display of composition and musicianship, and it was certainly passionate in its energy, it was not an emotionally poignant album. However, as I mentioned earlier, the emotional impact of The Wolf and the Fox
is a force to be reckoned with. Gurule cites ‘the theme of my three year relationship failing’ as a guiding force behind the album, and this is hardly surprising. There is a dark atmosphere that is maintained throughout the album, which (to my ears, anyway) conveys unhappiness, regret and maybe even a hint of longing. Whilst Gurule’s vocals are compelling and convincingly heartfelt, they are only present in a few sections of the album; the instrumental side provides the source of much of its emotional weight. This is particularly notable in the forceful bleakness of Human, All Too Human
and the jarring, tormented closing sequence of Endeavor to Preserve
. An opportune by-product of this atmosphere is that the album is very cohesive and comes across as absorbable and fully-realised, especially given that its 34 minute runtime allows for its musical ideas to be developed fully, but prevents it from dragging on.
As well as this, the production here is significantly less sludgy than before and the album shines as a result, since the music’s clear presentation reflects the precise musicianship behind it. The vocals have also been improved and now strike a strong balance between being messy in an angry and scathing manner, and adding to the music with clarity.
The underlying factor to the album’s success is how musical ideas are given sufficient space to be developed powerfully. Unlike on Untitled
, which was infectiously sporadic, Gurule has no qualms with repeating progressions in a manner similar to post-rock, using them to provide a firm sense of structure and identity for each song. This is especially evident on the title track, which invokes a minimalistic, bleak atmosphere reminiscent of that in Thrice’s The Great Exchange
and embellishes on it in a coherent and enticing manner. In presenting a more logically composed album, WoO sacrifices some of the frantic, mathy integrity of their debut for a more measured approach, but in my opinion, this exchange is very much worthwhile.
As concerns specific songs, there are several standouts here. After the relatively unambitious Introduction
(which sets the tone nicely), Human, All Too Human
is a mission statement that kicks the album off in a very dark, serious manner. Its opening line “Hope prolongs the torments of man” is a very accurate mission statement for the album and remains stuck in the listeners mind throughout the album. Mad Prophet of the Airwaves
is a slightly more ‘fun’ song that uses samples and playful guitar licks to break the bleakness of the album slightly, although it is hardly an uplifting listen. Some of the album’s finest riffs and licks can be found in Endeavor to Preserve
and Tiny Flowing Currents, Immediate and Forever
, and trust me – this is high praise given the quality of guitar work present. Finally, the closer Sentient Metamorphosis
relies on strong grooves and provides a poignant and cathartic end for the album, which couldn’t really be ended in any other fashion.
In summary, The Wolf and the Fox
is a solid blend demonstration of mathy post-hardcore that pushes the boundaries of the genre through the inclusion of significant post-rock/post-metal influence that allows the album’s emotional side to resound at its full potential. I would recommend it to any fan of bleak music, post-rock, or heavy music in general.