December 2021 Feature Release – The Gateway Edition
So just like that we find that a new month is upon us which of course means that we’ll be nominating a brand new monthly feature release for each clan. This essentially means that we’re asking you to rate, review & discuss our chosen features for no other reason than because we enjoy the process & banter. We’re really looking forward to hearing your thoughts on our chosen releases so don’t be shy.
This month’s feature release for The Gateway has been nominated by Andi. It's the brand new third album from Los Angeles alternative metal outfit Bad Wolves entitled "Dear Monsters".
Thanks Daniel for accepting my feature release submission! Here's my review summary:
Bad Wolves is a band I consider part of the category of alt-metal bands my brother enjoys and I used to, and though they obviously didn't exist during my peak in the category nearly a decade ago, I enjoyed a few songs from this band when my brother listened to them a few years ago despite sounding like part of said category. I decided to revisit that band with their new album Dear Monsters, and despite Tommy Vext having already left the band, replaced by ex-The Acacia Strain guitarist Daniel "DL" Laskiewicz on vocals, upon first listen I thought this album has amazed me, probably the second-best alt-metal album of the year behind that Spiritbox album! However, when I listened again to write my review, I realized that while half of the songs still remain great, the others not so much. Still, the career of these Bad Wolves is beyond interesting. Even with TV out and DL in, this band still has their strength, especially considering the vocal abilities of the latter that's as good as the former. More cool melodies and heavy riffs are written to peak high, and they're enough to make this album an OK one to recommend and sing along. To be more specific on these ups and downs, Dear Monsters has soft and half-acoustic tracks more suited for radio fans than myself, and epic and heavy tracks to fit inside the metal library that recognizes Bad Wolves as a solid band. Anyone tired of waiting for new material from Disturbed, Bad Wolves is the right band for you. Dear Monsters is a good start before building your way backwards into the Tommy Vext era. So turn it up and sing out loud! And get those soft radio single potentials out of here....
Recommended songs: "Sacred Kiss", "Never Be the Same", "Comatose", "On the Case", "Classical", "In the Middle"
For fans of: Disturbed, Spiritbox, Five Finger Death Punch
I had some fun with this review. The album...not so much. It's the best thing Bad Wolves have made, but that isn't really saying much.
I never would have guessed four years ago that I would be talking about a Bad Wolves album. My introduction to this band was their god awful cover of the Cranberries "Zombie" in 2018, and I felt I had every right to steer clear of these Five Finger Death Punch wannabe edgelords. Well the time has come, and it seems like it may have been at a decent time as Tommy Vext is out as primary vocalist. Their replacement is frontman of deathcore act The Acacia Strain, Daniel Laskiewicz.
And while Daniel is significantly more impactful on the microphone, it does not change the fact that this is still a Bad Wolves album. This group has a horrendous sounding mix; the compression in the breakdowns to songs like "Classical" and "On The Case" sound like liquid ass. I had a similar problem this year with Spiritbox, but that group managed to salvage the radio friendly compression by having very sticky refrains. Bad Wolves has good refrains, probably the best in the entire discography, but they are nowhere near as plentiful as Spiritbox. "Wildfire", "Gone" and "House of Cards" are good, but "Springfield Summer" and "Classical" are quite forgettable. And that's before you even get into the cringe on "Comatose"; that song is just....🤢; I didn't know I could hate anything more than "Zombie", but here we are!
The compositions are fine, I guess. They are pretty predictable since this is radio rock/metal, and the promo singles "Lifeline" and "If Tomorrow Never Comes" are adequate. The biggest problem with Dear Monsters is that is the entire formula for all twelve tracks. Some songs are heavier, some songs are softer acoustic ballads like the closer "In The Middle". But these differences are all surface level. I don't like using the term "butt rock", but if any band fit into that mold, it would be Bad Wolves. It's super generic, the mixing is hot garbage, and the growing maturity in the lyrics may be commendable, and the new vocalist is an upgrade, it does not hide fact that most people who are going to enjoy Dear Monsters are never going to hear it. Instead, it'll be "get out those Monster EnergyTM and lets punch some drywall, YEAHHHHHHHH!!!" as Kyle blasts "On The Case". It'll have it's audience, but the only "Monster" I'll be is to this bands fanbase.
You know what, I actually quite enjoyed this record. Yeah, the first listen was certainly very confronting indeed as there should be no question whatsoever that you're listening to a pop metal release here but once you come to accept that & allow yourself to knuckle down & enjoy the hooks then you'll find that it's really not half bad. (In fact, if I'm being completely honest I was nothing short of repulsed on first listen but found my affections growing in leaps & bounds with each subsequent listen. I find that this is not an uncommon occurrence when stepping well outside of my musical comfort zone & it's one of the reasons that I'll never be convinced that you can properly sum up your feelings on a release in less than three listens.) I think "Dear Monsters" is weighed down a touch by the fact that it doesn't start off really strongly though. The first couple of tracks are acceptable with opener "Sacred Kiss" being a bit borderline but being saved by some back end intensity & a solid chorus but "Lifeline" is pretty flat & "Wildfire" falls well short of the mark. From that point on though things begin to look up significantly & we even have a couple of tracks that I genuinely love in "Gone" & "Springfield Summer" (my personal fave) which both have amazing chorus hooks that leave me forgetting about the cheesier lead-ups. The melodic metalcore influence in the breakdowns is incorporated much more fluently than your average generic screamy hardcore kids are capable of & the production & musicianship are excellent. I definitely agree with Saxy's statement about the tracklisting being pretty samey though with similar structures & feels to most tracks. As with last month's Trivium feature release, the vocals definitely have more Nickelback about them than I'm comfortable with but Daniel Laskiewicz is a very capable singer in his own right & the hooks are always strong which enables him to overcome that comparison. I guess you could say that this is a bit of a guilty pleasure for me but (as you all know by now) I've never been shy about calling it as I see it.
For fans of Disturbed, Five Finger Death Punch & Ill Niño's "Till Death, La Familia" album.
P.S. I'm looking forward to seeing what Sonny thinks of this one as I'm sure it'll draw a passionate response. :)
Hmm... I think I should refer you back to my comments on the new Trivium album a month or two back. Sounds more like a commercial enterprise than an artistic statement to me. Mix together the sound of several commercially successful bands (Slipknot, Nickelback, Trivium) then sit back and watch the money come pouring in.
Or, alternatively, I'm just an out-of-touch old fart who doesn't understand "the kids". Either way, I don't like it. (I'm sorry Daniel, but I can't even be bothered to get too wound up by it - but I did prefer the christmas carol record to this, so that can't be good).
I think I'll give it a 1.5/5 (I do like the black metal wolf peering out of the cover).