I Am The Avalanche – Wolverines (Track-By-Track Review)

I Am The Avalanche - Wolverines

I’m a little later than I’d planned with this review, and so I figured I’d dumb things down a bit and try a track-by-track review, something I haven’t done before. I Am The Avalanche’s last album Avalanche United is one I still spin on a weekly basis, so I wanted to cover it’s follow-up, and ideally I’d have liked to dedicate some more time to it.

Two Runaways kicks off Wolverines with a bang, coming in from simple guitar chords that provide a backbone for a tale of American escapism with the person you love. It tells a story, and Vinnie Caruana’s ability to spin a narrative shines through. The track is more mature, less emotional and more explorative whilst keeping that passion and channelling it elsewhere. Wolverines is a record that sees the band grow, and they do immediately with a great opener. The brief guitar solo towards the end is a nice addition, and as a whole Two Runaways sets up the record well. [7]

‘He’s gonna marry her, he’s never gonna let it fall apart / Two runaways, a real American work of art’

177 was one of my favourite tracks on the record, sounding most reminiscent of the bands past work, cruising along on spirited punchy instrumentals before ramping up the chorus as Caruana gives one of his better trademark gruff performances. The way the song drops off slightly for the line ‘177, we’re all going to hell’ before launching into the chorus is great, and more stellar guitars makes for a track that was designed to be played live, with hundreds of people shouting back the previous line. 177 is I Am The Avalanche at their dynamite best. [9]

Previously released The Shape I’m In deals with Caruana’s spine injury (‘I do my best to live with the pain’), and it’s surprisingly upbeat and anthemic, serving up an energetic roller coaster of a song, with excellent surging riffs and catchy bass sequences to boot. I Am The Avalanche know how to write a song, and Wolverines’ electric third track showcases impeccable songwriting alongside a personal topic covered with exuberance. [8]

Young Kerouacs is one of the ‘meatier’ tracks on the record, with radio-friendly punk instrumentals and another huge sing-along chorus. It’s also the most forgettable so far, which is a small criticsm of another otherwise great song which again acts as a letter of sorts, and you get the sense that Caruana means absolutely every word he sings / shouts, giving a deliciously venomous delivery that still manages to express a comforting warmth with some personal lyrics – ‘I’ve been dragging myself through, with regards to the worst this life can give.’ [7]

The title track Wolverines is a short and snappy selection, filled with a suitable angst and regret as again Caruana addresses someone off stage before the song gives way to head nodding nostalgia and an oddly humbling euphoria through dynamic instrumentals and reflective lyrics about hanging out with friends and missing doing so. It’s easy to see it as filler, but there’s a lot more to the 90 second song than there initially seems. [8]

Anna Lee is my favourite song on Wolverines, partly because I know a girl who shares the name and evokes that same sort of memories and regrets, which makes the song relatable to myself, although the great melodic chorus and cruising verses could grab anyone’s attention and admiration. As Caruana laments missed opportunities in his own unique and gripping way, the instrumentals perk up for the more intense moments and fall into stride beside the records best chorus on one of its best songs. Anna Lee is sad and sympathetic sing-along perfection, and I Am The Avalanche have never sounded better. [10]

Anna Lee you never said to me that you felt that way / Nothing can bring you back’

Save Your Name is a more traditional and rousing punk song which keeps up the tempo and builds on it, rising for a memorable chorus and only slightly dropping in between. More excellent guitars break things up, and Brett Romnes’ drumming is some of the records best, never relenting and always delivering. However, it’s nothing the band haven’t tried before, and it’s a similar sort of song to those that defined most of Avalanche United, serving as both a step backwards and a reminder of past glories. [6]

Where Were You? is the longest track on Wolverines, clocking in at just under the four and half minute mark, and reaches the same sort of lengths that the band did on their emphatic debut all the way back in 2005. As a result it’s a bit more expansive, building from only a fuzzy guitar backdrop and Caruana’s vocals before giving way to pounding drums and picking up from there. The song covers Hurricane Sandy (which affected Caruana’s hometown)  if I remember correctly and it’s reflected in the lyrics of the first verse before the song becomes more open as it progresses, as the missing person in question becomes lost in the chaos, as the wind and rain picks up. Beneath the surface it’s a much more emotive listen than initially suggested, and it’s one of the calmer, more probing tracks on Wolverines, easing up for another guitar solo before dropping off to acoustic guitars and rushing back for one final chorus. [9]

My Lion Heart is as bold as its title suggests, opting for a more positive approach whilst keeping that same passionate angst that gives a lot of Wolverines its bite. Again, it’s nothing new, but it’s especially good, and I Am The Avalanche nail it – which is also nothing new. [8]

One Last Time marks the end of Wolverines and ends it on an emphatic high, as you’d expect. Wolverines is a record that never lets up, and it’s a shame it isn’t a few tracks longer, with the tenth and final track chronicling the end of a relationship with trademark gusto. As far as closers go it isn’t the most encompassing or expansive, but it’s fitting, not differing massively from the tracks that precede it but almost effortlessly matching their quality. I Am The Avalanche make things seem incredibly easy, and it shows. [9]

‘If this is the last day of my life I need to see you one last time’

Final Verdict: I Am The Avalanche are still one of the best bands in the genre, and Vinnie Caruana is still one of the best (if not the best) in the genre, adding something more to each of the ten tracks that make up Wolverines. The bands third album is a shining example of punk-rock done exceptionally well, and Wolverines is an album that doesn’t mix things up too much, but still soars from start to finish, making for one of the strongest releases you’ll hear this year, taking everything that made Avalanche United one of the best albums of recent memory and delivering on a much larger and more consistently invigorating scale.

Overall Rating – 9/10


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