Hour of the Wolf are one of the best punk bands in America-trust me. It's a familiar story, kind of a Zen thing (like the tree falling in a vacant forest), but The World Is Different Now: thanks to the Internet, the local band you always knew to be better than any national contenders can now play in the big leagues, gathering converts online as well as on tour. And they will; they already have. Hour of the Wolf has already begun to amass a following outside of their native Arizona - a following that can only grow, leaving us Arizonans to nod like proud parents at native sons who hit home runs.
Born in Prescott, Hour of the Wolf - who may or may not be named after an episode of the television show Babylon 5, an Ingmar Bergman movie, or a concept akin to "The Witching Hour" -play a kind of punk that zine ad copy might bill as "rock and roll influenced hardcore," which usually just means that the guitar parts sound less like "Out of Step" and more like "Do You No Wrong." But Hour of the Wolf are anything but formulaic, and they succeed where so many others have failed: on the strength of their songs.
A dirty secret: songwriting makes hardcore. To a large extent songwriting makes any form of music, but we all know the truth: many doom metallers can scrape by with the right pastiche of vintage gear, and a lot of noise artists fall back on a battery of exotic effects pedals rather than any actual aesthetic merit. Repeat ad nauseam with the genre of your choice. Minor Threat weren't just an innovative punk band; they were first-rate songwriters. And one of the big reasons why Hour of the Wolf is so special is that they can actually write a tune.
This band channels the back-alley, fire-breathing menace of Poison Idea, mixed with a whoa'd hookiness gene-spliced from Danzig's hair follicles or even the fingernails of an hungry young A.F.I., plus just a dash of Billy Zoom's silver-flaked glitter guitar-but under duress, like he'd been kidnapped and forced to supply his Chuck Berry-isms at gunpoint. The guitars actually have a nervous, amphetamine-addled edge that almost conjures up the ghost of Drive Like Jehu. It's a potent mix. Instead of coming off like empty placeholders for something mercurial that's gone tepid, Hour of the Wolf molest some of rock and roll's stale signifiers until they actually sound dangerous again.
Waste Makes Waste diverges a bit from the band's first recording, Power of the Wolf: the band sounds rougher, sharper, and even nastier than before, a shift signaled most by how singer Lance dials back his golden-throated "Last Caress"-isms slightly, favoring a more kerosene-gargling bark. Don't fret, there are still opportunities to get your whoa on-but as the liner notes promise/threaten, "no Pro Tools or nothin' . . . In other words, what we shit is what you get." Thank God/Satan!
The last record offered a cover of Black Flag's "Fix Me" as a hidden track; this time they do an even more inspired and scorched take of Mission of Burma's "That's How I Escaped My Certain Fate," further cementing the fact that this punk ain't boilerplate. And Hour of the Wolf's covers sound the way they should: tossed off like a pinch of salt over the shoulder, an afterthought compared to their original jams.
There's not too much else to say. Too few bands today are playing inspired, ferocious punk rock. The downside of having more and more punk records available than ever is that too many would-be connoisseurs spend their time valorizing second-rate bullshit in an attempt to seem like dumpster-diving aesthetes. Don't fall into this trap. Hour of the Wolf play punk the way it should be: raw and unapologetic. I don't say this very often, so take note: buy now or fucking pose.
9.0 / 10
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A full-album stream of Hour of the Wolf's latest EP, Obsolete, has been made available here. The effort was released via Hellfish last month.
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