Story of the Year – Wolves
Pledge Music Release: December 1st, 2017
Released: December 8th, 2017
Story of the Year lineup
Dan Marsala // Lead Vocals
Ryan Phillips // Lead Guitar & Vocals
Philip Sneed // Rhythm & Bass Guitar, Vocals
Josh Wills // Drums
Story of the Year online
Sometimes when bands release albums in December, they are often forgotten about as plans are underway for Christmas and there isn’t enough time or money left to delve into new music, but I HAD to get this up as soon as I could because Story of the Year have released a decent album which almost never saw the light of day. The band are now a four piece following bassist Adam Russell‘s departure due to financial strains on his family and those financial issues plagued the band for years, so they decided to ask fans to pledge money to help them make the album they’ve been working on for seven years. All the old elements of SOTY songs are there with a few little surprises along the way… but I better not get ahead of myself, lets pick it up from the beginning with title track ‘Wolves‘. This one sets the mood and theme of the album featuring background noises of a bike being ridden at a fast pace while a bell chimes in the background and out of nowhere the sound of wolves howling in the distance creeps you the fuck out as they get louder and closer. The bike is dropped and it’s rider starts running full pelt but it’s no use, the roar/growl of the pouncing beast is the last thing you hear before the song ‘How Can We Go On‘ begins with a signature SOTY opening style featuring a slow build up that takes us to frontman Dan Marsala’s screaming with the drop into a faster pace (and that’s not even the best part of it). The guitars and drums working together fill you with adrenaline and make you want to run in circles chanting. The best part of the song comes at the 2 minute mark when it turns into RIFF CITY with a guitar solo guaranteed to put a smile on your face. The sample songs SOTY have released sound nothing like this and may have been a little misleading, all I can say is disregard them, this is the first song from Wolves you need to hear.
Talking about sample songs, we move immediately (like with perfect transition) into first single ‘Bang Bang‘ which not only continues the vibe and pace from before, but also has those SOTY elements I was talking about earlier. So far there is more focus on Dan’s melodic vocals as opposed to his heavier screams and after all these years, he still has that unique voice that can be picked out of a crowd/club. The hard thing with the amount of new melodic-hardcore bands coming through right now is they all sound the same and can be mistaken for someone else, these guys however stand out from the rest and have positioned themselves as innovators/pioneers rather than followers of the scene. Chuck in some screams for good measure and a few produces sweeps towards the end and you’ve got a pretty damn good gym song to run to. Ryan Phillips and his guitar are the main stars of ‘Youth‘ which is a 51 second riff-fest positioned only where it is to take us into ‘I Swear, I’m Okay‘, a slower, synth filled ballad track which instantly grabs your attention and draws you in to listen to the lyrics about not living up to expectations. You can’t help but sing aloud to the words “I swear, I’m okay, those little words don’t mean a thing, when I know there’s no way, we’ll ever be the same” or “Sorry, that I’m not the man I promised I’ll be, but I need you now”, especially if A: you’re a bloke and B: you’re a bloke who let someone down in the past. Scream the lyrics as loud as you can to end out the song and you’re nailing it. ‘Miracle‘ is up next and here is surprise #1 I mentioned earlier, in the band’s promo photos and videos they released to push this album, there has been an element of an 80‘s vibe to it and this one sounds just like a new age hair metal/rock song from back in the day. Think keyboard synth, rocking your shoulders back and forth while wearing a fluro headband and a shitload of smoke and that is exactly what would make the video clip for this song perfect… either that or featuring the kids from Stranger Things riding their bikes on a mission to save the world from the demogorgon. Wow, I can’t believe I managed to crowbar that into an album review.
Keep that theme going for ‘Can Anybody Hear Me‘ which (like blink-182‘s latest album) is full of “woah ohs” to fill the time in what can be described as the band’s attempt at a fun, energetic commercial radio pop-punk song. I hear hints of the non-emo Simple Plan hits combined with 30 Seconds to Mars for good measure. It’s catchy, but also very different from what the band have done in the past, but that’s ok because ‘A Part Of Me‘ brings back the same feel from the band’s 2008 album The Black Swan, however it’s filled with the synth from earlier, screams and a heavier climax. When the guitar starts on ‘Give Up My Heart‘, all I can picture is a stadium with the lights off and a spotlight on Ryan as he strums the strings all alone before Dan’s voice kicks in and and he’s rejoined by the rest of the band for the album’s second ballad. If you’re like me and you’re a sucker for a ballad, you’ve already found a winner with Wolves. Heavy breathing and an increasing heartbeat greets us for ‘The Eternal Battle For Mike Cronin’s Soul‘ as (my guess) Mike Cronin turns into a werewolf? The band kick in shortly after for another quick paced, singing/screaming combination with a dash of dubstep (I think) in the middle. The first half of this one kills it, but it lost me towards the end unfortunately.
The “woah ohs” are back with a vengeance for ‘My Home‘ and so is the pop-punk vibe. Another commercial radio savvy song that, for me, doesn’t hit the same mark of awesomeness as the previous songs. Would make for an epic closer during a live show (prior to the encore of course). ‘Goodnight, My Love‘ is a step in the other direction with more of a rockier sound behind it and a decent chugga chorus that’ll have you headbanging ever so swiftly. If you listen carefully, you’ll hear resemblance between this and ‘Razorblades‘ from the band’s 2003 album Page Avenue which was a career definer for them, so it’s great to hear them revisiting that part of their history. As we start to wrap things up, the tempo slows right down for ‘Like Ghosts‘ where kicks off very produced with electronic drums and that vintage synth background sound from earlier. Having never heard SOTY do anything remotely similar to this (not counting side bands), it feels slightly out of place, but after a couple of plays, it starts growing on you and in reality, it’s an uptempo ballad, taking the count to 3. If at first you don’t like it, give it a second then go back for a second or third listen and I’m sure you’ll come around. Last but not least we’ve got ‘Praying for Rain‘ and at 7 and a half minutes in length, it’s the longest song on the album which means you’re in for a ride. Switching between a slow, emotive flow to a faster, punchier pace it’s like a battle between good and bad with SOTY telling the story with their music. Dan Marsala’s vocals are on point with this one, Josh Wills drums along perfectly and gives the band what they need to play along. The strained vocals towards the end seem a little forced at first, but once they kick in again they sound exactly how they need to be to suit the sound. The song closes with rain sfx fading away and the whole experience comes to an end. (Note: with the pledge version I have, there’s a second version of ‘Bang Bang‘ which I’m assuming is an EDM/club remix as it doesn’t sound as good as the original version, but props to them for trying something different. If it worked for Linkin Park and Bring Me The Horizon, you can’t blame them for trying. It just didn’t work for me)
Story of the Year fans have been waiting seven years for a taste of new music and we’ve finally received it with Wolves. I can safely say as a BIG fan of these boys, it definitely hits the mark and fills the void they’ve left in our lives. Don’t come in expecting a heavy, in your face revamp of the band, instead think about everything the band have done and how far they’ve progressed as musicians and admire their talent when they’re in control of their own music.
Story of the Year – Wolves tracklisting
2. How Can We Go On
3. Bang Bang
5. I Swear, I’m Okay
7. Can Anybody Hear Me
8. A Part Of Me
9. Give Up My Heart
10. The Eternal Battle For Mike Cronin’s Soul (To Be Alive Again)
11. My Home
12. Goodnight, My Love
13. Like Ghosts
14. Praying For Rain
15. Bang Bang (Version 2)