REVIEW: Gnarwolves – ‘Gnarwolves’

Gnarwolves ST

Artist: Gnarwolves
Album: Gnarwolves
Label: Pure Noise Records

Let’s be honest, it’s pretty hard for a pop punk band to climb out of the grave that the “Defend Pop Punk” movement has become. A name like Gnarwolves backed up by images of pizza slices and skateboards can either serve as a calling card to invite new listeners into something they already know they’re going to love, or as a warning sign for the bored and weary to stay as far away as possible.

Yet Gnarwolves are more than just another skin-deep act — or at least that’s what one would assume if their name has traveled across the pond and onto US soil, let alone signing and releasing an LP through Pure Noise Records.

As a trio, this Brighton, UK act have no room for flashy theatrics. On top of handling vocals, Thom Weeks and Charlie Piper handle guitar and bass duties respectively, while Max Weeks pounds away at the drum kit. With few exceptions, the songs that composed their previous EPs were very straightforward and featured few time and key changes. But the thing is, that only really works on 12-minute EPs that are packed full of songs that average out at 90 seconds, so on this 28-minute full-length the band have become a little more liberal with their dynamics and track times, thus changing up their songwriting game entirely.

There’s no doubting it, these guys truly are honor roll students of the school of skate punk. You can hear it in their self-titled lead single “Smoking Kills,” and see it in its music video. There are plenty of Millencolin-influenced riffs scattered on throughout the album that can go to show that this trio have probably logged in a serious amount of hours shredding gaps in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. But rather than producing a purely throwback-driven sound, they’ve added on their own twists to spice things up. From the moment I heard the snowballing bridge of the album’s opening track, “Kick It,” I knew immediately that this record would prove to rise above expectations. “Bottle to Bottle” proves that the band can hold their own when it comes to slow-burning tracks and still hold a listener’s attention, even with its wimper-like crooning.

If there’s one thing that takes on the spotlight of Gnarwolves, it’s their vocal game. By claiming the punk rock ethos of using whatever vocal skills you have and not caring to adjust for anybody or anything in the world, the trio are able to convey something that bands have somehow increasingly found trouble with: honesty. The gritty, loud, and confident sound that’s found on tracks like “Prove It,” “Everything You Think You Know,” and “Day Man” further cements the fact that it’s there to stay.

This full-length proves that these UK boys know how to write a variety of really great songs using a mixed bag of sounds, but what it fails to prove is that they know how to connect them with one another, which is incredibly ironic considering the fact that my favorite track from the record is “Flow.” But by no means does that indicate that Gnarwolves is a bad record, but it does mean that you might as well listen to it on shuffle. These guys haven’t quite nailed the make or break art of organizing an album, but perhaps a collection of 7″ EPs à la Fall Out Boy’s Pax Am Days could’ve been a better release method.

Whether or not you’re looking for a definitive experience that includes memorable points like a beginning, middle, and end, or just something to listen to while bombing hills (heck, even just at work/school and wishing you were bombing hills), Gnarwolves is 2014 skate punk done great, but not quite perfected.

SCORE: 8/10
Review written by Adrian Garza — (follow him on Twitter)

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