Want to explore one of the year’s most compelling, thrilling and addictive offerings to spark addiction in our ears? Then ladies and gentleman, boys and girls we offer up Act 1-It Starts With A Bow, the debut album from Swedish outfit Wolver. It is an emprise of theatrical rock ‘n roll which devoured the imagination and festered under the skin like a devious virus sparking a delirium rarely teased let alone unleashed in 2020.
Wolver consists of the fertile imagination and salacious invention of The Protagonist (lead vocals and guitar), The Brawler (drums), and The Charmer (guitar). It is a threesome which embraces and corrupts the most vital and best essences of rock in its various guises into their own unique escapades in sound, art and storytelling. The likes of Muse, Queen and the Black Keys are often cited in reference to their sound, to which we might add 12 Stone Toddler and Japanese Fighting Fish but honestly it is fruitless endeavour trying to pin down the band’s exploits, far easier to lustfully embrace which we ravenously did within Act 1-It Starts With A Bow.
Within the theatre of the release, the band takes listener and imagination to the land of Jovenia and the peculiarities of certain members of its dystopian tinged steampunk realm. It is a theatrical adventure which teased and taunted, inspired and invaded with creative dominance and irresistible enterprise with never a moment lacking addictive captivation. Its unpredictability is as fertile as its mischievousness and together only add another dimension to the rich craft in songwriting and sonic sorcery within the trio’s sound.
The release raises its curtains courtesy of Welcome! and what an invitation it proved to be. The opening lure of guitar is rebellious in its tone, the quickly aligning throat of bass and vocals just as beckoning. Riding the imposing rhythms which grace the moment we are transported, arouse up spirit and appetite as The Protagonist with the wiles of a carnival barker directs what to expect and indulge in, and satiate ourselves we did here in the glorious Tabula Rasa which immediately opens up. With those rhythms continuing to drive and manipulate song and listener with devilry, guitars and vocals court just as eager subservience and participation with their esuriently tenacious and energetic exploits.
It is a stunning start to the album and just matched time and time again across the release, Mad Man immediately proving the fact with its voracious stomp and tempestuous dynamics. The sludge skinned metal textures the track toys with reminded of fellow Swedes Transport League at times but as relentlessly proven throughout the album, Wolver are like no others as too their creative roars of which this had us hollering and bouncing like a demented marionette upon its wicked strings.
Making a favourite track nomination takes in a horde of possibilities over the sixteen imagination gripping exploits on offer and Million Mad Locusts makes a forceful case with its ravenous prowl and animated textures, the track never settling or allowing its victim to as it twists and turns like a twirling dervish. Grooves and hooks only escalate the infestation, vocals and rhythms just as insurgent in their persuasion and creative deeds so that by its close we were not just smiling but drooling, literally.
From the storytelling set up of Prologue for a King, the carnival-esque wonder and theatre of Once a Puppet, Now a King immerses ears and imagination in its intoxicating verging on toxic rock opera. Becoming more agitated and ferocious by the breath it too erupts in a ravenous rock ‘n’ roll roar though, as the tale itself, the adventure only evolves in fascination and bold invention earning greedier devouring
We will admit by this point no matter what was to follow we were hooked and indeed swiftly licking lips with the next up pair of Alike the Third Secret and Ulti-Poser. The first is pure captivation, a plaintive acoustic ballad with The Protagonist simply mesmeric at its heart and another major highlight of the release but more than matched by the predacious trespass of its successor. Aggressively compelling and virulently infectious the track skilfully runs the lip of bombastic but crafts only the richest tapestry of sound and temptation in its fiery tempest.
The similarly ravenous swing of Ticket to Moscow brings espionage to the journey, its drama courting flirtation and intrigue combined within a sound with just a tinge of Muse meets Panic! At The Disco to it while the southern twanged Newsflash and in turn 101 with its ominous stroll add further diversity to the landscape of the release. The first of the pair strides on ears with rebellion in its character, stirring up air and the passions with keen devilry before the second, draped in dark shadows and bearing a portentous breath bringing forth a reality check, uncages its own addictive blues stoked, groove wired rock ‘n’ roll.
From its warring parade, God Bless America marches with a pugnacious swing and deviously seductive groove, provoking and egging on eager physical and vocal participation with its infernal dexterity and inclinations. Magnificence barely covers its conflict and subversion before the dawning of reality within What Have We Done..? is followed by the heart bearing beauty of Upstream, another ballad come serenade which left us spellbound.
As Trophy acoustically stroked the senses with its sepia toned quaintness and My Wife, the Witch sizzled upon them with sonic causticity and scorched power rock dynamics, it was clear the album had no intention in relaxing its drama and invention as its finale loomed. Each song left us greedier by the second for more whilst raucously accosting the air before album closing ’til tomorrow… brought things to a wistfully and poignantly evocative conclusion, its epilogue only suggesting the dawn on bigger and richer adventures to come.
And that is Act 1-It Starts With A Bow, one of the most riveting, rousing, and irresistible encounters we have come across in a long time. Wolver consumed every aspect of attention and fed every strain of pleasure with their first album, the imagination lost to its alchemy with matching ease. Roll on Act 11.
Act 1-It Starts With A Bow is out now via Rexius Records.
Pete RingMaster 19/11/2020