Wolf Skin – Low Spirits
Release Date: July 17, 2016
Wolf Skin is a hardcore band out of South Dakota. They waste no time letting you know what you are in for with their debut album Low Spirits. “No hope, no love, I was never good enough,” is the battle cry that kicks off the opener, “Low Spirits.” The song then drops a ten-ton groove on you that is dense and strategic. The right opening track sets the tone for a release, and Wolf Skin nail that ideal. Low Spirits is a dark yet hopeful journey.
Hunter Babcock (vocals), Alex Hartman (guitar), Beno Terzic (guitar), Justin Jungemann (bass), and Jake Rundell (drums) weave together heavy and harsh with moments of melodic beauty. Riffs that groove, batter, and show off musical prowess fill the album. When these guys want to hit hard they slam you. Their melodic elements are textured and, dare I say it, pretty. I am the first to admit I typically do not like vocals that fluctuate between gruff and clean. However, Hunter does a superb job of doing that in a few tracks. Not many seem to know how to handle this properly, but he masterfully switches styles when it is called for in a song. They complement the music perfectly, and it is an element of enhancement more than a rule. Jake’s drumming is a constant rolling thunder. Dude is exacting in his play, but he also manages to make it feel wild and untamed.
I would be a bit remiss if I did not talk about the production on this album. Low Spirits just sounds good. I dig that you can hear the distortion on the guitars being pushed almost to the edge of breaking. They sound sharp, gnarly, and dark. They also brighten so well when the time calls for it. Justin’s bass tone… man, that bass tone. Throughout every track you can hear him just hammering that low-end. It is a monstrous rumble that is completely controlled. Drums and vocals sit exactly where they should in the mix. The drums surround you, and the vocals are the beast in the middle.
As I stated at the beginning of this review Low Spirits is a dark yet hopeful journey. Behind those negative vibes there is a message of positivity. Wolf Skin speaks of love of hopefulness. There is a light at their end of their tunnel and they want you to reach it with them. That is refreshing and something I believe everyone could use more of in this world. Low Spirits flows from start to finish in expertly executed fashion. A solid, solid debut.
A quick personal note on the song “The Free Life,” I must give Wolf Skin huge kudos for the breakdown at 3:00. I am a sucker for a good breakdown you can hear coming a mile away. There is an art to that in my opinion. When a band sets up such a thing, when they basically tell you what is coming, they have to pull it off. If not, it is just a disastrous failure. Wolf Skin tee it up, prepare you for the inevitable, and then they deliver in spades.