I really enjoyed Wishing Wolf’s self-titled debut album [from 2016], so I was a little worried when their new effort landed in my hands. As in such cases I wondered if their new effort would live up to the expectations raised by its predecessor. No fear, because their sophomore long player Violet Fire hasn’t tinkered with the bands formula too much, but it’s immediately obvious Wishing Wolf have matured as both musicians and songwriters. The riffs and lyrics that echo throughout ensures their latest opus hangs together as a cohesive whole.
Cascading guitars are a motif that recur throughout Violet Fire and here, on the quiet storm that is album opener ‘Endless’, they frame an apologetic, beseeching telephone message. The vulnerability of the words spoken create a rather ominous tone and provides a nice foil for next track ‘Stardust’. In complete juxtaposition it fairly races out of the blocks with pedal firmly to the floor. However Wishing Wolf are a band who employ a lot of light and shade, even on a track like ‘Stardust’ there are brief, almost ambient, interludes which only serve to make the faster passages more frenetic.
Drawing influence from artists like My Chemical Romance and The Used there’s, perhaps understandably, a definite American flavour to Violet Fire, but it’s more in homage than any nefarious copycatting. ‘White Rose’ is permeated with intricate guitar lines which intertwine with six stringers Ben and Kyle firing off each other. Evidently the band have spent a lot of time on achieving just the right tone for their instruments and this is complemented by vocalist Danny who, with a nod to his Stateside influences, uses his larynx like an instrument, rising in octaves at will to complement the dissonant melodies of the guitarists. This is most notable on next cut ‘Closer’, as ethereal guitars swirl, with the vocals delivered somewhere between the defiant and self-effacing. But the dynamics are again evident in the conflict of soft and loud passages.
It’s definitely an album of two halves; perceptive listeners will note a change from ‘The Last Time I walked You Home’ onwards, as the high octane fuel that powered the early cuts is supplemented by something more emotive. Sure the majestic title track contains a chugging riff but it’s tempered by a reflective tone that dominates the second half of the album. Not only is there a shift musically but also in the confessional lyrics of ‘Only Nightmares’, a truly epic track that finds the band flexing their musical chops over seven minutes. Bringing things full circle is final cut ‘Black Beauty’, which connects with the phone message of opener ‘Endless’ but lyrically ‘Black Beauty’ counterpoints the “white ghost” mentioned in ‘Only Nightmares’. It’s these dots that join throughout which makes Violet Fire such a rewarding listen on each subsequent spin.
Wishing Wolf are the kind of band with a mélange of influences as nu metal and punk elements rub shoulders with indie rock intention that owes much to the current mid-90s-emo revival. While these disparate prepossessions could leave Wishing Wolf in a kind of musical limbo what holds Violet Fire together is a strong song (and dare I say pop) sensibility that underpins the album. Even at their most sombre the songs contained herein are real earworms that’ll haunt you for days. In the genre of alternative rock that’s a rarity, and something worth celebrating.
Violet Fire is out May 29th; order below via Bandcamp