REVIEW: Alpha Wolf – A Quiet Place to Die [2020]

Artist: Alpha Wolf

Album: A Quiet Place to Die

            In its purest form, that is, without any intervening factor, death is the natural conclusion to life. Human beings are finite—at least when it comes to matters of flesh—and thereby, with the beginning of life, there is an end. However, most deaths don’t occur in such a poetically simple fashion; there is often an intervening force to be accounted for. The nature of ones death, however, not only provides insight as to whether one’s conclusion to life is “natural,” but insight into who they are as a person and the sort of life they lived. The same as violent means beget violent ends, a peaceful life usually meets a peaceful end. Sure, there are outliers—but those are more often than not the exceptions that prove the rule. On the title track of Alpha Wolf’s sophomore full length record, when the line “I still can’t find a quiet place to die” is harshly belted atop a grisly breakdown, the above adage is crudely hammered home—because when you happen to be one of modern metalcore’s most vicious contenders, you simply don’t get a quiet place to die. In spite of the name, Alpha Wolf’s forthcoming offering is a rambunctious, ruthless ride that keeps the listener enthralled with everything from groovy, head-banging leads to gut-wrenching, prolapse-inducing breakdowns. In short, A Quiet Place to Die is a relatively diverse but thoroughly engrossing work of metalcore mastery that sees Alpha Wolf’s dominion over the scene expand into regions previously untouched.

            A Quiet Place to Die sees Alpha Wolf capturing the same blistering aggression that made Fault such a stand-out release and combining it with some of the more melancholic moments found in Mono’s instrumentation—all, of course, with some added energy and intensity reflective of the band’s maturation throughout the writing process. Being blunt, A Quiet Place to Die feels something like what I’d imagine cocaine feels like—a quick, rapid rush that continually blisters your ass for the better part of an hour before an abrupt comedown. Take, for example, the percussion that defines “Akudama” or “Acid Romance.” Here, drummer Mitch Fogarty hammers away with reckless abandon, bewildering the listener with frantic fills and fast footwork. Elsewhere—“Bleed 4 U” comes to mind—his percussion is more subtle, lending more room for depth and introspective atmosphere at the hands of guitarists Scottie Simpson and Sabian Lynch. Simpson and Lynch mirror Fogarty’s fervor during songs like “Akudama,” “Restricted (18+)” or “The Mind Bends to a Will of Its Own” without being too stiff, and still able to capture more melancholic leads and ambience on “Don’t Ask…” or “Bleed 4 U.” Some of these cuts—“Ultra-Violet Violence” or “Golden Fate; Isolate” come to mind—see the duo riffing away with leads that have a distinctly nu-metal throwback ring about them. Elsewhere, as on “Restricted (18+)” or “Acid Romance,” the duo lay on with a stiff pour from their modern metalcore influences, using dance-worthy grooves in tandem with explosive breakdowns to practically inject the listener with adrenaline right through the eardrum. All the while, bassist John Arnold adds weight to even the most frantic or lucid moments of A Quiet Place to Die, lending depth to leads from Simpson and Lynch without overpowering Fogarty’s fierce kick drum. Alpha Wolf, in this way, create an incredible balance between the vast array of moving parts abundant in their dynamic, creating synergy and sinister aggression the likes of which they have spent their entire discography trying to capture.

            As if the sheer vitriol pouring out from Alpha Wolf’s musicianship wasn’t enough, the pre-release period for A Quiet Place to Die saw the band emerging from a somewhat enigmatic “beef” of sorts. This additional fodder served only to amplify the raw, primal anger emanating from every aspect of the band’s sophomore full length record—but it was especially prominent in the vocal and lyrical element. Frontman Lochie Keogh was praised for his debut work with the band on Fault (and the singles leading up to its release)—and his talent only continues to grow on A Quiet Place to Die. Where Keogh’s vocal diversity falls short, his energy and intensity shine, as he hammers home every syllable with undeniable conviction from the first strained screams of the record’s introductory track. What’s more is that Keogh’s lyricism has taken a turn for the better as well—with songs like “Acid Romance” and “Golden Fate; Isolate” feeling personal and deeply emotional, while others—“Creep” and the soon-to-be-infamous “Restricted (18+)” are call-out cuts the likes of which the heavy music community hasn’t heard since the Emmure/The Acacia Strain beef of last decade. Keogh’s lyricism partially fills the relative void of diversity left by his vocals, giving each track a distinct theme and message for the listener to resonate with—some of them reflective and emotional, others brash and pissed.

            A Quiet Place to Die is a record with a tremendous amount of hype—for good reason. The single best thing about it, though, is that it manages not only to live up to the hype surrounding it, but also exceeds even my own lofty expectations. With only a few songs (primarily the couple surrounding-but-not-including “Bleed 4 U”) sounding slightly samey, Alpha Wolf have created an otherwise perfect record—one which has failed to get old on near-countless replays (my own play count is ticking close to 100 with no slow down in sight). Alpha Wolf—a band that has experimented with several styles of heavy music during their career—have finally found a sound and energy that fits them to a tee, lending itself to creating what is sure to be revered as one of 2020’s best records (and few redeeming qualities).


For Fans Of: VCTMS, Void of Vision, Lotus Eater, Anticline

By: Connor Welsh