REVIEW: Alpha Wolf – Origin [EP/2014]


Artist: Alpha Wolf

Album: Origin – EP


What comes to your mind when you hear the term “alpha?” Maybe you’re a member of a fraternity or sorority so the first thing that jumps into your head is Greek life—the feeling of comfort and home. Perhaps you’re more culturally or religiously minded and think of alpha as it represents the “Alpha and Omega” model of a mighty creator. Or, maybe you’re a little bit of a gym rat—like me—and think muscle-bound bros and testosterone when you hear the word “alpha.” At the end of the day, no matter what conception leaps forth into your consciousness upon hearing the term, it all applies to Alpha Wolf, a terrifyingly heavy deathcore act from Tasmania. Combining pummeling, spine-snapping deathcore and beatdown instrumentation with grating, aggressive vocals in a violent, relentless package, Origin is beefier than a slaughterhouse, yet unique enough to stand on its own and impress the listener with a clever, crushing combination of heartfelt bitterness and malevolent misanthropy.

Start to finish, beginning to end, alpha to omega, Origin is a devastating, demoralizing experience that crushes the listener with ruthless, limitless aggression. Jackson Arnold steamrolls the listener with energetic, punchy drumming that is packed with fills enough to keep the listener’s desire for technicality satiated, while also maintaining an oppressive, beefy candor. Even from the beginning of “Falsehood,” Arnold’s percussive ability is noteworthy, and a key component in defining the band’s atypical heaviness. However, Arnold isn’t alone. While the drums are more than capable of flattening the listener thinner than a pancake, the guitar and bass are also jam-packed with energy that allows them to frolic and dance upon the now two-dimensional listener’s corpse. The guitar, bouncing in perfect time with the gallop and grit of the percussion ranges from pure, chugged-out aggression to grime-coated grooves—best seen throughout “I Am; Horror” and “Snake Pit.” Meanwhile, even in the rare instances where the guitar flirts with higher-fretted riffs and harmonics, the bass guitar rolls right behind the percussion, crushing the listener again, ensuring every bone is turned into a dust finer than the sands along the Gold Coast. These three instrumental elements combine to create a canvas of pure, unstoppable crush that is heavy, bouncy and riveting in ways the listener wil have never heard before.

So what, you’re saying to yourself. They’re heavy, I get it. Anyone can be heavy. Well, you’re right—while the instrumentation driving Alpha Wolf’s Origin is a relatively unique perspective on the traditional punishing, pervasive heaviness that comes with bloody-knuckle beatdown-infused deathcore, it is still, fundamentally heavy. Where Alpha Wolf truly separate themselves from the pack is their vocal originality. Instead of a diverse range of brees, squees and shrieking high screams, Alpha Wolf’s lets loose with a rough, gruff and hard-headed mid-range shout-scream hybrid—courtesy of John Arnold. Arnold’s vocal work—which some might define as monotonous—is the final nail in the listener’s casket. Constantly oppressing the listener, its ever-present gritty, intense rasp makes even Origin’s more ethereal moments seem dismal and daunting. Take “Deathwing,” for example. Constantly wearing down on the listener with a rough, sandpaper-like tone, the complete lack of diversity in Arnold’s vocal tone makes every moment of the track ten times heavier than it would have been otherwise. Furthermore, Arnold’s insistence on the same, mid-range vocal tone makes the slight variations that occur throughout the release infinitely more noteworthy—especially when Justin Johnson of Gift Giver lets loose with a high, shrill tirade of his own on “Snake Pit.”

Effectively, Alpha Wolf’s Origin is the clash of two juggernauts—the result of heavy meeting heavy—or heavy squared. Saved from monotony by its short length, the oppression let loose by this young quartet is practically unparalleled. Drawing from hardcore-friendly, beatdown bands for vocal inspiration, yet borrowing from downtempo and deathcore acts alike for instrumental ingenuity, Alpha Wolf has raw anger that would make Suburban Scum proud, and technical proclivities that would make Thy Art Is Murder and Pledge This! Blush. Whether it’s the syncope between Sabian Lynch and Hayden Dargavel’s skin-flaying strings or the dense, meaty crush from Arnold—either John or Jackson—Origin is just under twenty minutes of innovative heaviness that combines the most crushing aspects of a multitude of genres to create something the listener will surely embrace as home—even if it turns out to be a home they will find themselves buried in as it crashes all around them.

Alpha Wolf do it all. They create a structural, intense blend of genres that will make the listener feel at home (a haunted home, at that). They are the beginning of a new style of dissonant, demonic deathcore and all-out hardcore aggression (as they are indeed the end of boring, same-old heaviness). Finally, they are, if you didn’t get the picture—heavy, and they reign as kings of heavy, and will grow to lead other up-and-coming aggressive acts like the Alpha Wolf they are rightly identified as.



For Fans Of: Barrier, Villains, Widow, Thy Art Is Murder, Pledge This!, Desolated, Expire

By: Connor Welsh