The Republic of Wolves

Varuna

Written by: DR on 11/01/2011 00:32:00

Should you believe the hype? In my few years paying attention to the music scene outside of the mainstream media, I cannot ever remember an unsigned band's debut album being hyped up quite so much as this. But then, it seems that hype has always followed The Republic of Wolves; their first ever release, "His Old Branches EP", was passed on via word of mouth and spread like wildfire around certain internet websites, and then later that year a few of their demos were leaked as "Daisy" demos - and people couldn't even tell that it wasn't actually Brand New until TROW spoke up and announced it was them, and that they had played no part in the leak whatsoever. There has certainly been a lot of build-up to this album, but after over a month of patiently listening to hear what all the fuss is about, I've been disappointed.

First things first, (according to Wikipedia) Varuna is a god of the sky, water, celestial ocean and also a god of law and a god of the underworld. The artwork of this album depicts, as you can plainly see [hi-res here], a lone man of some years, what appear to be two wolves (in metaphorical sheeps clothing) and in the background a broken ship sinking into the abyss/sea. You're free to create your own interpretations of how the title, the apathetic wolves and the solemn looking man all relate, but as an album "Varuna", lyrically speaking, is loosely based on that sinking ship and therefore life and death at sea. Thematically, it's intricately-woven focus on the contemplation of one's own faith is only to be admired, especially when it's constructed with such eloquence. In this light, "Pitch And Resin" stands clear above the other tracks, for TROW adopt a fresh perspective on accepting your inevitable end if you believe in heaven, "Some day we'll be setting suns / Watching everything we've done".

Furthermore, the faith element of the lyrics has quite plainly been inspired two of the great alternative albums of the past decade: "Come Now Sleep" and "The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me". This influence isn't limited to that element of song-writing, either. The quiet to loud and semi-aggressive shifts in opening track "Varuna" are right out of As Cities Burn's "Empire" playbook, while near enough every song thereafter, instrumentally speaking, plays (perhaps too close at times) to the dark yet melodic yet noisy brilliance of the aforementioned Brand New masterpiece. There is one track which doesn't yield to this, and that track is "The Attic", but you'll find out why that's their best song in the paragraph after next.

When listening to any album, not least in one so lyrically-centred, the vocals bear a lot of the weight; it's not quite as simple as are they good or are they bad, but do they believe in the misery that they sing? Vitally, do they make you believe in it? Vocalist Mason Maggio puts in a performance best described as efficient, from a purely technical standpoint, but that just isn't enough. Title-track aside, not once do I believe he means anything he sings of - there's just no emotion in there whatsoever. Sure, he's going for that spooky, introspective, brooding style of Lacey - at times they even use that thing that Jesse Lacey does so well where he has the wailing underlying the main vocals - but something isn't connecting there. To be blunt, it sounds like he's somewhat-monotonously narrating, rather than expressing his fears and beliefs. If that wasn't quite enough, bassist/keyboardist Billy Duprey has seen it fit throw a few cookie-cutter screams in there, too. Why? The fact that they are as cookie-cutter as any second-rate scene band I've heard should be more enough on that point.

Ah, yes, "The Attic". What a song. The closest to an acoustic offering on this album, and it's the best song on here by some distance. However, it's not the change in musical style that really sets it apart, but the change in vocalist. Maggio stands aside (but is still allowed a few bars) and guitarist Gregg Andrew Dellarocca takes the lead. Why he's not the main vocalist we can only guess, but he should be, because he's far superior, but most importantly, more emotional. As he sings "somehow I was meant to care for everyone and everything in the world you left" his voice comes dangerously close to crushing under the weight of its own grief. Dare I use the word magical to describe Dellarocca in the second of that song?

And so we arrive full circle at the opening sentence, "Should you believe the hype?". Do I believe the hype? No, but I would unequivocally declare that there is a lot of potential here: musically and lyrically everything is spot on.

There's nothing wrong with having influences, especially the likes of "Come Now Sleep" and "The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me", so apparent; The Republic of Wolves sound like a marriage of the two albums, but, and this what hinders this album enormously, without the emotion - and the emotion is what sells this style, quite frankly.

Download: The Attic, Varuna
For The Fans of: (less emotive/angsty versions of) Brand New's "The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me, As Cities Burn's "Come Now Sleep"
Listen: Myspace

Release Date 28.10.2010
Self-Released

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