Artist: Wolves Like Us
Album: Late Love
Label: Prosthetic Records
Wolves Like Us are the latest in a long line of Scandinavian mood masters, crafting an album filled with exquisite loneliness. Glimpses of the tragic and forlorn linger throughout Late Love like ghosts, creating a tense and intriguing record that echoes with haunting melodies. Some of the songs which lack this ambient backing music lose a lot of the magic and appeal, but on the whole the record is a fine little masterpiece.
“Burns Like a Paper Rose” is an early indication as to the dark, shadowy expanse to come – it has a very dark edge with a thumping bass line and a hushed, eerie guitar. The vocals are just as vacant and troubled when they come in, adding to the tension and niggling sense of tragedy. It’s an emotive track, with little spark though plenty to love. “Deathless” has the same flickering, lost air that defined the opening track. The bass is heavier, creating a distorted and confused effect, as the overall sound rumbles ominously, building with the pleading vocals. The choruses and verses differ quite dramatically, the latter featuring a piercing sound with an almost darkwave sensibility, while the former have a stronger sense of rhythm and heavier instruments. The lengthy overture on “Sin After Sin” feels a tad morose at first, though the sound becomes richer and more vivid when the vocals and harmonies begin. The former are particularly impressive, concerted and full of feeling, while the overall air remains one of looming tragedy. There’s a gorgeous midsection which mixes furtive and undulating harmonies, beautifully intertwined with main music and singing, to provide a haunting and ghostly backdrop. Perhaps the finest element of this album is how grandiose the songs sound, as the depth and diversity of each track creates a sound that seems almost celestial in scope.
The band now move to a more stripped down approach, removing some of the ambience for a more straightforward rock sound. As noted above, the tracks do inevitably lose some of their bewitching appeal as a result, though it prevents the album becoming too plodding and repetitious. “Old Dirty Paranoia” is loose and simplistic, with dirtier vocals that make no hint towards the sad or introspective. “Shiver in the Heat” seems almost punk-esque when it begins – it’s very quick and animated with raucous and persistent instrumentation and brisk singing. The style is completely different, distancing itself even further from the gentler opening tracks. The music is almost a dull roar throughout, and it fades out on a wave of distorted percussion. “We Speak In Tongues” has a good, compelling structure and a bass line to die for (consistently solid bass lines have been a highlight throughout the record). By contrast with the sweeping songs of heretofore, this one mixes a very metal sound with the more eloquent aspects to give it an added appeal and a lovely polished veneer.
“To Whore With Foreign Gods” is the final track, and an opus. It opens on the majestic and divine, interweaving seamlessly with heavier moments, though these are still marked with a tangible sense of contemplation. The harmonies and lighter guitars have the same charm as elsewhere, with a light and airy touch that plays well off the intensive vocals. The sense of unease in the atmosphere is well evoked; a lengthy wordless midsection frees this a little though the final section revisits the grim. When the music crashes back in, it does so with a bang, but there’s a curious sense of inertia to what follows – almost a little too discomfiting and anarchic, and it doesn’t seem to do the earlier part of the song justice. The fade out is over long and seems like a cop out, though if you discount these latter flaws the track does end the album in style.
Generally, Late Love is a sprawling success, with an imaginative and colourful sound that (for all its hints at darkness and despair) provides an engaging sonic palette. It could do with trimming in parts – the last song in particular – and it doesn’t always delight and compel, but when it’s being a bit more creative it provides a compulsive and enriching listen. This deserves to reach a wide audience.
Review written by: Grace Duffy