The Republic of Wolves
Shrine


5.0
classic

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
March 12th, 2018 | 370 replies


Release Date: 2018 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A thrilling, fully-immersive indie-rock album...and a triumphant return to everything that this band does best.

Sometimes it all comes together. The Republic of Wolves, independent alt-rockers hailing from Long Island, have been a perfect storm waiting to happen for nearly a decade now. The multi-faceted talents of the band – which includes vocalists/guitarists Mason Maggio and Christian Van Deurs (both of Tigers on Trains), drummer Chris Wall (of The Kickdrums), keyboardist/vocalist Billy Duprey , and bassist Ryan Sean Cullinane – have seemingly been on the fringe of breaking out since their 2009 debut EP His Old Branches. The band has always thrived on mystique: the darker their themes and the deeper they tumble down the mythical rabbit hole, the better. From nature and spirits to literary folklore, The Republic of Wolves have always managed to transport their listeners through existential lyrics, hauntingly vivid atmospheres, and aggressively rock-rooted overtones that breathe fire into it all. When you consider all the greatest successes of their past – from the alluring mystery to the bone-chilling darkness – and roll them up into one cohesive product, you get shrine. The group’s third full-length album is easily their most accomplished, correcting the pleasant but overly soft-spoken sophomore detour, No Matter How Narrow, while also channeling Varuna’s best traits with better production (thanks in large part to Dan Gluszak, of Envy On The Coast) and more gripping melodies. shrine is a triumphant return to everything that this band does best , and it’s a thrilling, fully-immersive indie-rock album that finally puts everything on the line.

All of this becomes apparent immediately. “The Canyon” is a five-minute piece that begins like an interlude; soft but persistent acoustic strumming gradually fades to a flare of drums and electric guitars clashing together in grand cacophony. Spine-tingling screams char the background, while Maggio steps in to confess ‘every lie has its disciples…so maybe I’ve been too devout’. There’s a moment a little more than halfway through when the entire band comes to a full stop and keys/chimes rain down. As the opener begins to wrap up, it only gains momentum – Maggio laments over and over, ‘it’s hard work, having a soul’, and the vocals are layered to make it sound like some kind of divine harmony. “The Canyon” wastes no time making shrine’s intentions known…this is going to be an existential, instrumentally complex work with plenty of melodic hooks and a few surprising twists. The song cuts off a tad suddenly, but somehow it blends in seamlessly with the equally abrupt gang-chant that commences “Bask” – a shouted ‘let’s get to work!’ that perhaps also doubles as the group’s mission statement. Electric riffs immediately barge down the door, searing through the air and setting the tone for hellish screams of ‘I'm telling lies about myself, to myself' ' – the likes of which we haven’t heard since 2010’s “Greek Fire.” A dense bridge comprised of echoed, overlapping vocals and electric feedback gives way to yet another wrinkle – a pristinely produced, resonating mantra of ‘where do all the lost minds go’, which features backing vocals from All Get Out's Nathan Hussey. At the end of what can only be described as an insanely catchy hook, the band dives right back into the bleak shouts, screams, and deceptively complex riffs that defined the core of the song – and then ends it all with a spry, completely unanticipated acoustic guitar outro. “Bask” is both beautiful and ruthless, and quite possibly the best song that they’ve ever made.

The opening duo feels like a drug meant to get you hooked on shrine, and it works. The entire course of the record continues down a similar path to what is established early: a dizzying blend of furious upheaval and flourishing moments of acoustic and lyrical beauty. “Sundials” is actually more of a compromise, floating atop a mid-tempo rhythm that seems to progress effortlessly towards a contagious chorus of ‘I’ve heard suffering is easy, as long as you’re still free / so where does that leave me’. “Birdless Cage”, on the other hand, marks the first instance in which The Republic Wolves actually pump the brakes and remind us that somewhere underneath all of the heavy, clashing influences, there’s an indie-folk outfit not all that far removed from the band’s acoustic alter-ego, Tigers on Trains. It’s a gorgeous number that you’ll want to sway along to, whilst the gentle to-and-fro of the rhythm carries you out to sea with its melodic tide. Despite possessing soothing undertones, the song does go somewhere – building to what might be the album’s most charming full-band moment. The drums slowly start to echo with more authority, and atop subtle strings and the chants of his backing vocalists, Maggio sings ‘…I’ll be fine, if we never wake up from this.’ If it feels like a special moment, it’s because it is. The song was contributed to a charity compilation for the ACLU entitled Music for Everyone in an effort to raise awareness for the organization, and was also entered into NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest. “Birdless Cage” isn’t the flashiest song on shrine, but it definitely carries some extra weight for every member of this band.

It doesn’t take long for The Republic of Wolves to delve right back into the chaotic heaviness that defines this album. “Mitama” is a fever dream, gliding in on a current of feedback that gives way to Maggio’s poetic voice, while the band around him slowly builds to a lengthy mid-song instrumental breakdown. The song is actually reminiscent of “A Weather Vane”, with its beautiful welding of atmospheric elements, blood-curdling shrieks, and heavy, distorted guitar solos. It’s moments like “Mitama” that were sorely lacking on No Matter How Narrow, and as one of the record’s singles, it is just the kind of song that should rekindle the interest of fans who were hooked from the moment they heard “Spill.” “Dialogues” clocks in at just over seven minutes and it feels like the mid-album epic; it’s a slow-burner that gradually raises the stakes as it progresses through soft and loud versus, including a chime-laden midsection, before culminating in a couple of frenzied chorus repetitions, replete with even more soul-baring shrieks and beefy electric guitar riffs.

By this point on shrine, it already feels like one of the most satisfyingly exhaustive listens that The Republic of Wolves could have crafted. That’s why the placement of the record’s two most accessible tracks – “Northern Orthodox” and “Colored Out” – feels ideal. Both songs possess earworm melodies that are structurally conducive to mass consumption, with the former thrusting the lyrical hook ‘don’t bother asking what would Jesus do’ into your brain while the latter is essentially one unrelenting, multi-part chorus. Both songs still retain shrine’s instrumental integrity and thematic weight though, which is to say that neither of these sound even slightly out of place despite their pop-sensibilities. The penultimate “Ore” is probably the record’s least immediate song, with no definable draw-ins other than the fact that the quick-spoken verses are something unique to the rest of the album. It’s a grower, however, and also one that does not betray the record’s sheer immensity or dark lyrical themes. The entire album is a very cohesive experience from start to finish, retaining its motifs with the consistency of a weather-beaten rock and the fluidity of a dream – which is appropriate, considering that the band has regularly referred to shrine as something of a dream-inspired concept record.

As the album draws to a close, there’s this sense of breathlessness – from the gentleness of Maggio’s whimsical vocals and transcendent lyrics, to the ferocity of the background screams and searing riffs, and even to the surprising twists, however brief, that turn the formula up on its head – it’s as if they’ve somehow done it all. “Worry If You Want (Yume)” serves to tie it all together, bringing the album to a conclusive and epic finish. The most impressive moment of the track, other than the mystery female singer who contributes to a brief but heart-stopping vocal harmony, is the near two minute guitar solo that winds shrine down to its final seconds in a display of instrumental mastery. It’s one that makes even the sick breakdown present on “Mitama” feel tame by comparison. shrine truly does feel like The Republic of Wolves bringing it all to the table, deciding once and for all to throw everything they have at us in a single album that leaves nothing behind, save for the incredible feeling of fulfillment that follows forty-eight minutes of gritty, uncompromising, and darkly imaginative indie-rock. It’s an album that does just about everything right, possessing both the immediacy to be enjoyed right away as well as the depth and emotional layers to be appreciated years from now. Every so often, an under-the-radar band such as The Republic of Wolves releases a gem that could be considered by some to be a classic within its genre. shrine is at least in that conversation, and it’s a record with lasting appeal that should be adored by fans, eagerly discovered by newcomers, and appreciated by all. If The Republic of Wolves have a magnum opus at this point in their careers, this is it. It's a perfect storm...so you'd best be ready.




Recent reviews by this author
Kacey Musgraves Golden HourBon Iver For Emma, Forever Ago
Lo Moon Lo MoonAll The Luck In The World A Blind Arcade
Endless Heights Vicious PleasureEDEN Vertigo
user ratings (158)
Chart.
3.9
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
SowingSeason
Moderator
March 11th 2018


25991 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

This doesn't officially drop until 3/27 but I'm starting the hype train early.

If you liked Varuna but thought No Matter How Narrow was a misstep, then you'll love this. It's like their older stuff only with better production, songwriting, hooks...the whole nine yards.

Digging: A Perfect Circle - Eat the Elephant

onionbubs
March 11th 2018


7988 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

has this leaked or did you get a promo?

Digging: Underoath - Disambiguation

SowingSeason
Moderator
March 11th 2018


25991 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I got a promo. I'll be sure to link up any streams, if and when they surface.

Nbehre11
March 11th 2018


69 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

And I thought I couldn’t be more excited. Great write up Sowing! So pumped for this.

Digging: Streetlight Manifesto - Somewhere in the Between

Pheromone
March 11th 2018


5611 Comments


excited to check this

Digging: Three Mile Pilot - Chief Assassin To The Sinister

Toondude10
March 11th 2018


12461 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

incoming Sowing AOTY, might as well just 5 it already

Digging: A Perfect Circle - Eat the Elephant

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
March 11th 2018


40091 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

nice if this follows along from Varuna I'll check it, from the review it sounds like it does down to the structure



the quoted lyrics are... not great tho

SowingSeason
Moderator
March 11th 2018


25991 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I didn't have a lyrical page to quote from, so it's entirely possible that I just chose uninteresting passages. They're mostly just the lines that stuck in my head the most.

FreddieDelaney31
March 12th 2018


3705 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Oh sweet Jesus I am overwhelmed with excitement, Varuna is still one of my favorite albums

Digging: Saba - Care For Me

3waycrash
March 12th 2018


208 Comments


Ohh was already looking forward to this, but now I am even more so with your approval

IAMERROR
March 12th 2018


273 Comments


"If you liked Varuna but thought No Matter How Narrow was a misstep, then you'll love this. It's like their older stuff only with better production, songwriting, hooks...the whole nine yards."

This has me licking my chops...I love the Varuna LP and His Old Branches & The Cartographer EPs to this day.

SowingSeason
Moderator
March 12th 2018


25991 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

It has a cleaner, crisper sound than Varuna which in my opinion is a good thing. It loses a tiny bit of mystique because of it, but it's just as heavy and I think the songs are generally more memorable.

Gyromania
March 12th 2018


24396 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

mitama is pretty great. looking forward to this

SowingSeason
Moderator
March 12th 2018


25991 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

For what it's worth I really liked Northern Orthodox and Colored Out prior to hearing the entire record, and they ended up being two of my least favorites compared to the rest, which is somehow even better. Even Mitama, for as good as it is, isn't really close to the best this has to offer IMO. Hopefully that bodes well for you all, too.

Gyromania
March 12th 2018


24396 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

these guys sound so much like brand new it's nuts.

SowingSeason
Moderator
March 12th 2018


25991 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Maybe it's just because I've listened to both groups so much, but I don't think the similarities are as prominent as they used to be. It's undeniable that the vocalists share a lot of similarities in their inflections, delivery, lyrics, et al; however I'd actually give TROW the edge in instrumental/technical ability. BN has the edge in production quality, songwriting, lore/reputation (well actually, maybe not anymore), etc.

Toondude10
March 12th 2018


12461 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

these guys have much more of an atmospheric vibe to them than Brand New imo

Gyromania
March 12th 2018


24396 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

the vocalists are basically identical, but otherwise i agree there are marked differences. i actually had to look it up at first because i thought for sure it was jesse lol

SowingSeason
Moderator
March 12th 2018


25991 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

For certain...my first exposure to these guys was the "daisy demo leak" which was actually a clip from "spill"...even as a hardcore BN fan, I couldn't tell the difference. Anyhow, I do believe they've done as much as they can to escape the shadow of those comparisons for the reasons I listed above. With this record, the improved production also brings out a lot of noticeable differences.

Gyromania
March 12th 2018


24396 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

that they sound alike is actually what's enticing me to dig deeper into their discog. sounds like they have enough of their own ideas and some pretty obvious influences. the mixture def seems like my cup of tea. gonna grab their debut while i wait for this to drop, methinks



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2017 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy