Once a Wolf – Advent [EP]

Once a Wolf – Advent [EP] – 5/5
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It's about time I got around to writing up this band, after all they've been spinning on my sound system for long enough, and rarely at a 'respectable volume' either, my hand constantly finding itself to turn it up just one more notch. It all came as a bit of a shock to me; I first heard them on the “Tech Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself” Tour, though really I was going for Cyclamen and Chimp Spanner who were also attending, and despite some sound issues and looking like the most unconvincing band of plucky heroes to the scene – half barely looking old enough to be at the bar and the slightly overweight vocalist nervously shuffling out like he had some undiagnosed medical condition – played a remarkably tight set despite all the intersecting lines and tempo shifts. After finding and bothering the guitarist for a copy of their EP decidedly absent from the merch stand, it's just three months later I find that of all the performers that day, Once a Wolf finds its way to my ears more than the bands I went to see.

In fact, there seems to be an odd pattern; the sillier and more unconvincing their appearance the better they actually perform; Steve Powell to his vocal lines as Shawn Lane was to the guitar in his latter years. If you never saw Lane in his later years, his feat was two fold; not only was he an incredibly talented guitarist but it was miraculous he could play with his belly getting in the way of the guitar and podgy fingers begging him to accidentally hit two strings at the same. Powell feels much the same; he looks about as capable as the next pre-pubescent Avenged Sevenfold clone without any of the confidence to back it up, and yet emerges with such a strength to his clean lines that it becomes nigh impossible not to lose yourself only to find you've just been trying to sing along at the top of your lungs (thank god I've already cranked the volume to 11), and a veracity to his growls that wouldn't be amiss in the next big Tech Death release, and still seems to be able to transition between them in such a way that gives Akerfeldt (Opeth vocalist) a run for his money.

But really this is only a small part of the sound, with a deep crunching bass supplying much of the rhythm and drums mixing things up only a little in an attempt to give each track some sort of identifiable pattern to nod your head to, because there's good odds that the guitars really won't. There are the rhythm guitars but for all the djent-y passages and supporting chord sequences there are at least as many times he decisively moves into 'Protest the Hero' like chaotic riff sequences, which when coupled with the lead guitars could quickly descend into madness if it wasn't all so damn catchy. Taking the true meaning of Tech, there are as many slow passages (even if not all the instruments always seem to be aware of that fact) as there are fast, creating these multi-layered complex compositions that twist and turn, coming together only to given them another place to diverge from, and doing more than just surviving it revels in multiple listens. And with no fear of time signatures to transition between sections, they create a barrage of notes that twice clocks at around 8 minutes – epic by this genres standards – and yet they have enough idea's that they never grow tiring.

With riffs galore, blurred into the solo's to the point of indistinction and topped off with a vocalist that could hold his own against those with far more experience, the more I listen the more excited I become. There's so much going on here, from the epic to the chaotic and everywhere in between; if Haken was my band to watch out for last year, this year it looks like my bets are on Once a Wolf for the near future. It's Jazzy – like the aforementioned Haken – but without descending to the depths of soul destroying wankery; its brutal but in a very British way void of bro-fists and breakdowns; it's melodic whilst never coming off as watered down. Mathcore has never sounded so good, and it boggles the mind to think nobodies signed them yet.