Album Review: Alpha Wolf - 'Fault'

24 April 2019 | 2:34 am | Alex Sievers
Originally Appeared In

Dealer who?

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To be honest, I think there's a fair argument to be made that if you like or dislike that Dealer's EP, 'Soul Burn', then one should feel quite similar towards Alpha Wolf's latest EP, 'Fault'. As these are two bands that don't just share a close cross-over of sound, audience, and even members, they also have a related aesthetic too. However, when done competently, there's absolutely nothing wrong with writing a no-bullshit, nu-metal-tinged, mosh-loving metalcore EP. Which is precisely what Alpha Wolf have done here. (Oh, and do expect a Dealer EP review from us sometime soon.)

Don't get me wrong, 'Fault' isn't some innovative release for the Melbourne-based five-piece; anyone calling it unique is talking out their ass to get bonus band brownie points. However, Alpha Wolf's new effort didn't even need to partially reinvent the wheel in order for it to be a solid offering of riffs, angst, breakdowns, and palpable aggression. Mercifully, they aren't throwing "interesting" ideas into their mosh tunes to be different or weird for the sake of it yet have it all go nowhere. No, Alpha Wolf keep it simple, dial up the tempos, increase the rage, and just go hard on 'Fault'.

[caption id="attachment_1106618" align="aligncenter" width="760"] Alpha Wolf, 2019. [/caption]

What I love most about 'Fault' is it's frenetic, relentless pacing. For real, you'd be forgiven for thinking that someone must have shat in Alpha Wolf's cereal before pre-pro because this thing is pissed. They've seriously never sounded this energised or this motivated. When that drive is refined and condensed down into a six-track EP dealing with other's people mistakes as well as your own faults, in about 18 minutes time, Alpha Wolf have never demanded this level of attention before.

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In many ways, it's what'd you expect from Alpha Wolf after what they pulled off on 'Mono', but now they're taking things an extra step further in terms of intensity. There's plenty of wicked, well-timed DigitTech whammy runs occurring, and those sick augmented chords near the end of 'The Lonely Bones' are a blast. Unsurprisingly, the EP's breakdowns are stupidly tough; never going on for too long nor bogging down the EP either. Tastefully used breakdowns go a long way, and more bands should take note, quite frankly.

Moreover, every song transition here is as smooth as butter: gifting the EP's flow with a real dire sense that's hard to ignore. For instance, the rising guitar feedback at the tail-end of 'No Name' gracefully slides into the spiking, filtered opening riff of 'Spirit Breaker' without any hiccups. Likewise, if you heard 'Sub-Zero' and found that it's outro of fading distortion and sluggish tom rolls was anti-climactic, hearing the full EP should rectify that. As 'The Lonely Bones' lands like a missile right afterwards with heavy tom hits before Alpha Down get down with their bad-selves; tight, dark and groovy nu-metalcore with a melodic edge that's about kicking ass, taking names, and ripping that heart from your chest.

In terms of track-listing, the band's made a smart move in leaving 'Black Mamba' off the EP. I honestly wouldn't know where they would've placed it, anyway. It thus makes room for newer blood-thirsty cuts to make their own mark. That being said, I don't think it would've hurt for the band to include another song or two, or even turn 'Fault' into a fully-fledged track and not just an interlude piece. The 45-second interlude is fine in of itself, and it bridges 'Russian Roulette' and 'Sub-Zero' nicely, but maybe more could've been extrapolated into a full song or another track entirely. However, with atmospheric guitars and creepy sounds, the title song does it's job fine enough and succinctly sums up the ethos of the EP lyrically:

"Failure consumes my every day/Another mistake, why am I like this?/ Unforgiving memories that haunt me/Leaving nothing but a bitter taste/Tomorrow, I promise to be a better person."

Performance-wise, the band don't hold back. Something that's evident in the guitar output from Sabian Lynch and Scottie Simpson; with their bends, tone and picking all on-point. New drummer Mitchell Fogarty is an air-tight player and his work behind the kit has made Alpha sound even more meaty. Whereas their former vocalist was mostly just emotion more so than technique, Lochie Keogh threads the needle so fucking well between both extremes. His vocals have that specific rage required to front a band like Alpha Wolf, and he's also got a solid screaming technique that gives everything a familiar, polished yet impactful punch. It's the best of the both worlds, the songs are beefed up as a result, and he perfectly fits Alpha Wolf's vibe. Then, adding to all of this is the insanely slick mix and production from Lance Prenc. (Notice the smooth, well-rounded low-end throughout.)

In context of the wider release, first single 'No Name' truly comes alive; it becomes it's own beast. That "here we go again" line in the middle could've easily preceded a slower mosh-section, instead it allows the track a new stepping stone for it to launch off from. Yet it's the EP's second cut, the super-charged 'Spirit Breaker', that hits so freakishly hard, showing off some subtle Slipknot influences too. It rarely ever lets up save for that water-breaking drop at 1:45, otherwise running at a brisk double-time and dropping in higher-octave melodic backing guitars for good measure. That last factor is a common trick for metalcore bands nowadays, but it's not something we've seen much in Alpha Wolf before. But they've implemented said parts well, lending an added dynamic to the song's emotional weight. While it's unlikely the original intent, that telling lyric in 'Spirit Breaker' of "'Cause there’s nowhere to go between the rope and the railroad" could best sum up the group's rocky road over the past 12 or so months.

'Russian Roulette' plays dirty, having a sick pit-call of "Who died and made you king?" as it confronts people speaking ill of the dead and acting like they know all about pain of depression and loss when they've not experienced said traumas. The track even sees bassist John Arnold providing some cool back up vocals with repeated rapped screams of "You know you're rotting your teeth when you keep running your mouth" for the chorus. Elsewhere, 'Sub-Zero' and 'The Lonely Bones' are two chunky sumbitchs, with the pair easily containing the heaviest breakdowns and gnarliest guitars of the entire EP. They definitely feel like the release's focal points, which is fitting as their two of Alpha Wolf's better songs. Bands like Alpha Wolf are all about inciting the most amount of movement and moshing via at shows, and 'Sub-Zero' captures that mentality thoroughly.

One of the strongest points about 'Mono' was that you could really feel what the band was communicating lyrically. Again, it was all pretty damn palpable! The very same goes for 'Fault', as the lyrical content tackles a lot of different ground, yet never loses it's defining emotional traits.

'Spirit Breaker' deals with crippling loneliness, feeling like you're not able to make relationships work due to one's own inabilities -  regardless of whether they're actually legitimate factors - and the special kind of cruelness a partner can inflict on the other. 'The Lonely Bones' tackles heartache, failure and dramatic relationships, romances that are littered with a parade of trust issues and heart breaks, to the point where enough is enough. It's almost like the sequel or the aftermath of 'Spirit Breaker', returning to descriptive metaphors of describing a cold-hearted lover; "Winter, Love died in the jaws of the frostbite/Winter, This chill consumes me"; with one feeling stuck and regretful for what could've been.

Elsewhere, it's clear that a track like 'Sub-Zero' maybe comes from Sabian and other long term members, as it dishes out some pretty spiteful words aimed towards impostors and posers pushing their luck; "You're just a pussy in a black hoodie pushing your luck/Hang your head in the light but show your teeth in the dark". (I've seen some comments on Reddit and YouTube mention that this track is a clap-back against Dealer's 'Crooked', which is silly. As that'd mean Alpha Wolf would've had to write the full song, get it all mixed and mastered, film a whole music video, get everything scheduled and uploaded for release, all in less than a month. That's not how this works, that's not how any of this works.) Then 'No Name', which seemingly comes from Lochie more than anyone else, is a self-loathing song about feeling like a freak and an outcast as a youth. A mindset imparts suicide ideation and self-hatred later on in life as an adult; believing one's only worth is when they're being hurt and torn apart.

With 'Fault', Alpha Wolf prove that the attention and hype they gained from 'Mono' wasn't just a one-off; they're only getting warmed up. There's really not much to fault here either. This EP has got plenty of bark, but also a shit-load of bite too. 'Spirit Breaker', 'Sub-Zero' and 'The Lonely Bones' are a new peak for Alpha Wolf, and it's got some the best production and mixing the band have ever had. The newest members - vocalist Lochie Keogh and drummer Mitchell Fogarty- both bring a lot to the band's table, injecting so much more drive and energy into their wrathful sound and tight songwriting. This EP is pissed-off; aggressive and bitter in how it tackles not just matters of the self, but other individuals who have scorned the band members in some way as well. Alpha Wolf definitely aren't nameless or anything resembling worthless with this belter of a new EP. It does suck that Alpha Wolf will have Dealer come in conversation around this new release, but they've definitely won the battle in terms of the better musical output.

  1. No Name
  2. Spirit Breaker
  3. Russian Roulette
  4. Fault
  5. Sub-Zero
  6. The Lonely Bones