Austin, Texas based hardcore band, GnarWolf, released their second EP, simply called II, back on the 8th of April 2017. The currently unsigned band are a 4 piece, releasing short, sharp tracks designed to pummel. Amidst all that pummelling. there is a chunk of imagination and style too.
Hardcore is often about the chaos – the aggression – and while that is enjoyable, it can be difficult for a band to stand out from the crowd. GnarWolf look to form their own identity in the genre through clever use of different levels of intensity. They then add a splattering of creativity through some changing riffs and drum tempos and the help of a few guest artists, including female vocals at one point.
The EP, II, has 6 tracks on it and comes in at just under 15 minutes long in total. So we are talking relatively short tracks and this should give you an idea of what to expect. The album starts with a furious flurry with a track called Harold: The Hero. A quick tapped drum suddenly explodes into life with a blasting drum rhythm and chaotic riff. The vocals are heavy but clean at the beginning and actually sound a little strained. I have to admit I wasn’t very keen on them but very quickly they switch to a raw and aggressive style instead which I like a lot.
The singer has power and fury combined and you get a sense of the energy and charisma the band must give off at shows. The first track is over in the blink of an eye but has time to bring in a couple neat sounding rhythm switches and guitar lines as the track ends. These little moments are supremely important in ensuring the band stand out and there are plenty of them.
Jessie: The Sheriff has a few changeups in the riff and you get some added power through loads of roared backing vocals. They are backing, already viciously roared, main vocals so it does feel a bit like getting punched in both sides of the head at the same time (in a good way). Mr and Mrs Jenkins: The Mayor and his Wife has a fast, but definite bit of groove to the first half before some gravelly screams see the tempo jump a notch further. Fast drums, squealing guitars and screamed vocals delivered at pace are on offer here.
The fourth track, Anne: The Widow sees Ell join the band and add some guest vocals. Starting with a high pitch guitar line, a gentler drum tap comes in before the enthusiastic yelled vocals start. In comparison to the rest of II so far, it is a relatively calm start though the vocals add a bit of edge. Like a warning of what is to come.
What is to come is a real switch to the rest of the EP. The guitar lines are more drawn out but still have a crunch. The drums are a bit off beat and mess with your mind. Female vocals come in just after the halfway point. They are delivered in a sombre, eerie fashion – kind of reminded me a bit of Oathbreaker actually. The guitars screech in the background while Ell sings before the instruments come back with that same slower, groove like, venomous rhythm. The roared vocals near the end of this song are the darkest on II so far bordering on black/extreme metal.
Hector: The Foreigner is the penultimate track and ramps the intensity back up with a chaotic start of crunching guitars and crashing drums. The vocals are spat out with malice but this time we get a switch up in to clean singing. Well almost clean anyway. There is a solid guitar section and, as the track fades to a close, it breaks down into a Suicide Silence esque (Doris) section. There are hushed but harsh vocals over a faded drum and occasional guitar note. A little odd, but interesting.
The final track sees even more creativity with the addition of a piano played by Ward Rogers and guest vocals by CJ Duffield (Bury the Road). Dodge Brothers: The Cowboys has a guitar driven start with roared vocals before a fast drum beat joins in. It is a heavy track, made all the heavier by the extra vocals. At about the halfway point, the track switches instead to a gentle melody where the piano comes in. It plays an eerie, contemplative melody through to closing.
Fans of hardcore/metalcore should fall in love with GnarWolf and what they are trying to do. Those who don’t necessarily love the genre may find just enough within these tracks to convert them too. Make no mistake about it, II is heavy and harsh, but it is also cleverly structured, well produced and dappled with little moments of ingenuity. GnarWolf’s II shows a level of intelligence and maturity within the songs to suggest this band could really make a name for themselves. If you haven’t listened to II yet, you should definitely give it a try.
II was recorded live by Kyle Tomchesson and Jeremy Fowler of Euphonic Productions and was mixed and mastered at Pro State Studios by Zachary Pierce. The album artwork was created by Martin Hooper of Drifting Creatives.
Grab yourself a copy of II at the GnarWolf Bandcamp page here. It is also available at the usual streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music below. Finally, you can grab a copy on Amazon at the links below this page. Find out more about GnarWolf, and keep up to date with their future plans and releases at their Bandcamp page, on Facebook, on Instagram and on Twitter. Be sure to give them a like and a follow while you are there.
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II by GnarWolf (Self Released)
The Final Score - 8/10