Review Summary: A pack of wolves to rip apart the alt-rock scene.
Quite often, bands successively evolve their musical style with each release. Sometimes the change is so drastic, that it leaves long time fans disappointed or even furious. An alternative to this procedure, if a profound alteration in future outputs is already planned, would be replacing the band name so everyone can understand the groups desire for something new and won't be surprised with the sudden change of sound. That's exactly what italian post-hardcore act formerly known as Hopes Die Last did. The new style: alternative rock. The new name: Alphawolves. It was the perfect decision for them to make.
Two years after the first single, Alphawolves' debut album Refuge
finally arrives. Lasting 41 minutes, it presents itself with 10 pleasently varied tracks. From the apocalyptic opener End in Fire
, to the punching tunes of Early Grey
, an almost psychedelic expierence in Silverscreen
or the oddly endearing robot-vocals of The Strawberry Place
, there's not a moment of boredom inducing repitition to be found throughout all 10 tracks. Likewise, lyrical themes are broad, offering general views of society ("End in Fire"), abstract metaphors ("Silverscreen") or personal stories ("Awake"). Everything is held together by different aspects of the record, making it a consistent as well as compelling trip from start to finish.
First, the unique vocals of singer and guitarist Daniele Tofani have to be mentioned. To a certain extent, they can be described as a mixture between the smoothness of Thirty Seconds To Mars' Jared Leto and the roughness of Bring Me The Horizon's Oliver Sykes. Particularly the latter part sounds unusual at first, but becomes all the more thrilling eventually. Tofani is able to slide fluently from one end to the other, even switching his vocal appearance within songs ("Bayonets") or delivering a combination of both ("Wolf Like Me"). While already intriguing when performing with his lower clean range ("Silverscreen"), his ability's outstanding nature becomes truly apparent in moments like the powerful chorus of Early Grey
, where everything just culminates into an emotional punch, almost challenging contemporaries as genre veteran Jesse Lacey.
Another tying factor is the intelligent use of electronic effects, which doesn't submit itself to the ongoing trend of simply packing all sorts of trickery into one song and believing that's innovative. The integration of mostly carillon- and piano-like sounds are always complementary, never overbearing. Details like the single synth-note between guitar chords in the End in Fire
intro turn something rather ordinary into a memorable melody. Throughout the whole album, similar additions create an ultimately distinctive identitiy to the bands musical style. At the same time, instead of completely drowning them, a crisp production provides the instruments with enough room to breathe, leading to some rough riffage from the guitars here and there, while also giving Tofanis raw voice the opportunity to shine.
If there's something to criticize, then it might be the occassional moments where it feels like a song, or even a section of it, ends abruptly. Be it the subjectively perceived lack of just one more word at the end of Deadlight
, the futile wait for some final vocals in the album finisher Dancers
, or the general limitation to only two instead of the usual three refrains in some songs. But this might also lead to them feeling more powerful when they eventually appear. And sometimes, the intention could've been to let the music speak for itself instead of inserting a last portion of vocals. Nevertheless, it's something that might catch one's attention.
In any way, Refuge
is a fulminant debut from a band that made the right choice to allow themselves a new start and thereby managed to introduce an excitingly fresh sound to the alternative rock scene.