When we first encountered Of Wolves in 2013, through their album Evolve, we wrote: “These three working men in Chicago are fed up, frustrated, and pissed off. They vent their fury at everything from churches to governments to pervasive greed to the treatment of Native Americans to the mass of their fellow citizens (aka “sheep”) who allow themselves to be brainwashed, duped, and distracted from protecting their own self-interests — and they don’t mince words about it. As they say, ‘Life has been rough, the music is therapy.’ Apparently, the therapy consists of taking a whole kitchen sink’s worth of musical influences and interests and letting them spill out in a flood of exuberant creativity.”
And now here we are, many years later. The world around us hasn’t gotten any better, only more fractured, delusional, hate-filled, and desperate. Needless to say, Of Wolves haven’t become any more sanguine about the direction of politics, culture, or life in general. They’ve had their own ups and downs as well. They started teasing a new album entitled Balance more than two years ago, projected for release by Cimmerian Shade, but the label owner’s illness ultimately doomed those plans. And so the band are looking again for a label, though they’re not going to allow that search to delay the album release for much longer (more on that later), and in the meantime are working on new music with plans to record it in the first quarter of 2020.
In January of this year the band released a three-part track from Balance (available here), after having rolled out each of those three parts individually, and now we’re presenting the title song, accompanied by footage of the band’s performance filmed by Mok Films at the Doomed & Stoned Festival.
Of Wolves are “beyond proud of the album”, which is a huge leap forward from previous releases, both in songwriting and production. It was recorded and mixed at Chicago’s Bricktop Studios, known for albums by Harms Way, Immortal Bird, Lord Mantis, Weekend Nachos, High Priest, and many more, and it was mastered by Brad Boatright at Audioseige.
All those advances are evident on the album’s slow-burn of a title track (which includes a guest appearance by Yakuza’s Jim Staffel on timbales, and by cellist Alison Chesley). Somber, isolated, haunting notes lead into heavier space as the rhythm tumbles across the toms, the bass reverberates, and a lonesome squall cascades from the guitar. There’s an introspective mood in these opening minutes, but the music becomes much… much… heavier and harrowing. With the bass and drums inflicting crushing punishment, the vocals vent excruciating intensity, the fretwork delivers spasms of frenzy, and there are shimmers of spectral mystery in the music too.
The song’s title probably has many meanings (we’re told it’s about the balance of life itself, of love and loss) but the music also seems to be a balance of these two alternating experiences and feelings, and the combined impact of them is shattering.
The first time I watched and listened to this video, YouTube served up right after it a video (here) of Neurosis performing “At the Well” in Paris in 2013, which I guess goes to show that YouTube’s algorithm has become self-aware, and developed a certain mastery in the creation of complementary tracks. The “Balance” video and that one, back-to-back, create a ruinous impact.
“Balance” — the song — isn’t the only music Of Wolves have made public this month. Not long ago they divulged a new EP, The Conspiracy EP, Vol. 2 (Non-Canonical Abridged Version). It includes three tracks. It’s 10 seconds long in total. Which shows that perilous times haven’t completely snuffed out these dudes’ sense of humor, even if the mood of this EP is very different from what’s on the un-released album (the EP will be released early next year by Camembert Électrique):
As for Balance — the album — it’s fully recorded, mixed, and mastered, with completed artwork, and has just been waiting…. The band tell us that at a minimum they’ll work toward at least a tape release in early 2020, and follow that with a vinyl release no matter what, even if they have to fund that out of their own pockets. Whenever that all gets sorted out, you’ll most likely find out about it at NCS, but certainly at these Of Wolves locations: