Until this review, the name In the Presence of Wolves was unfamiliar. Now, during the course of this review, it is hard to imagine a band this good not being known by a wider audience for the fantastic music they produce. The Philadelphia, PA based group plays progressive metal that sound like a cross between a livelier, more energetic version of the modern-prog Between the Buried and Me, Coheed and Cambria and progressive metal/rock up and comers (as well as blog favorites) Thank You Scientist. If any of these bands tickle your fancy, you owe it to yourself to check out In the presence of Wolves. If that’s not enough to convince you, perhaps a breakdown of this concept EP’s tracks will lead you be a tad more curious.
The melancholy piano and vocals in the intro track “As We Speak Pt. 1” that kick the EP off betray the energy of the rest of the record, but lays a solid melodic foundation before kicking it up a notch or two and taking us through narration about two brothers, one which has paranoid schizophrenia and one that does not. About halfway through the song the music begins to ramp up and soars higher and higher, talking about how one day the ill brother locked himself away from the well brother, until it explodes into the second track “The One Who Fell to Earth”. This song is a frantic romp that symbolizes the last moments of the ill brother before he takes his own life and what he says to his brother before he does it. The track has great light synthesizer backing, interesting guitar effects and fun, yet tasteful solos. Definitely a highlight of the EP and a song that’s ideal to show people who might not have a lot of time on their hands. The middle track “White Noise” talks about how the well brother is in the denial stage of grief and that he can still hear his brothers’ voice in pockets of white noise, which causes him to be unable to sleep. It’s at first somber, yet driving, with tight drum work, bouncy guitar licks and light soloing here and there, but ends up morphing into a more urgent and involved rocker that morphs one more time into a mixture of the two that has the backing of keys and clean/acoustic guitar.
The next song is the nearly ten minute “The Ape and the Cage”. It starts off with somber acoustic guitar and breathy vocals, as the well brother reflects on the world that he’s been left in with the suicide of his brother. He says that he’s felt enough and then the song becomes energetic, which seems to symbolize him entering the second stage of grief: anger. Dramatically, a doctor declares that he can cure the well brother of his mental funk and he will be able to dream again. He doesn’t want to be called/treated like he’s crazy, because he’s merely angry and trapped in his feelings like an ape in a cage. The song maintains great energy throughout all of this and ramps up even more around the halfway mark, with heavier riffing coming into play like it does in the latter half of “White Noise”. However, the song scales back a bit in intensity only to come back shortly after just as strong, if not stronger. Around the 6 minute mark things start to get funky, with the bass becoming more prominent and drums becoming more groove oriented, throwing in a solo that fades into a pleasant, ethereal guitar part. The vocals then come back in and join the ethereal part party, making for the most pristine moment of this record. To close the track, they go back to a previous chorus from earlier in the song and throw in some bit-crushed keys.
The last track “M.U.A. (Manipulation Under Anesthesia)” opens with punchy drums and a line that states “Wait until the drugs kick in…” which surely indicates that this song is going to be a doozy. The well brother has been sedated and is now hallucinating that the ill brother is alive and is helping him cope with how terrified he is. As the track progresses, it sounds as if the doctor is manipulating him while he’s under (hence the name) and saying that he can make suggestions to the well brother that will live in his mind but on the outside he can be affected by the doctor and will possibly be hurt by him. Honestly, this part is a little bit shaky as far as the interpretation of the lyrics goes, but sadly the lyrics to EP are not readily available to. The track itself however is sturdy and an excellent closer. While the narration is going on, the track flips from hard-hitting to somber and back at multiple points which I think reflects the tone of the song well. As far as specifics go after the narration, a little after the 4:20 mark another tasty solo make an appearance, followed by acoustic guitar backed by muted electric guitar that eventually bursts to the front of everything, demanding the listeners immediate attention. Then the track ends with a quickly picked acoustic passage that sits underneath haunting electric guitar notes sustained into the ether.
After listening and re-listening to this EP, it keeps coming back. The melodies are catchy, the music is well written and the concept is interesting and will span multiple releases that are to be looked forward to. Does this music break new ground? Not necessarily, but what it does, it does well. It keeps the listener engaged through tracks both long and short and grabs you within two of those songs, if it doesn’t have you interested by the closing of the EP opener. When you’re listening to In The Presence of Wolves, you are truly in the presence of wolves. Ones that are ferocious, calculating and ready to tear you musically limb from limb.
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Stream the whole release above via the band’s Bandcamp, which also gives you the ability to buy a digital and a physical copy of the EP, released on June 30th, 2017.