It’s no secret that this has been a challenging year in the music scene. 2017 has been harsh and unforgiving, this seen particularly in the loss of several major figures in alternative music. Returning from a seven-year hiatus, Story of the Year tackles these issues of mental health and feeling alone, as well as fatherhood and feelings of mediocrity, in their latest album, Wolves.
The album begins with a haunting minute-long instrumental intro which sets the stage well for what appears to be a concept album. From almost every standpoint (lyrically, musically, compositionally) Wolves is full of surprises. When you listen to Story of the Year, you expect morose lyrics surrounded by an equally moody soundtrack, but this album finds a new lightheartedness. Story of the Year haven’t lost their signature sound, but they’ve definitely matured.
In an interview with Fuse, front man Dan Marsala went through the album track by track, offering a bit more background into the stories that compose Wolves. Two of the tracks are about Marsala’s family, which is not generally a theme we find in this genre of hard rock/punk. It’s refreshing and new – something this scene, filled with sad songs about breakups and ordering pizza at 2 a.m., needs desperately.
His lyrics are the same as any fathers would be: worrying about how to raise his kids in this crazy world and how to provide for them. Both tracks, “A Part of Me” and “Give Up My Heart”, are beautifully written and meaningful but still hard-hitting and don’t sound anywhere close to the lullaby you would expect from someone writing about his family.
The album was recorded independently, a path many bands have been taking and using successfully. They used Pledge Music, and the amount of merch and exclusive content for backers is actually insane. (There’s still some items available, as well as copies of the album, for sale on their Pledge page.)
Much of the album was produced by Aaron Sprinkle of Tooth and Nail fame, and honestly, I can hear his input all over the record. He’s very sonically talented and always finds new and exciting ways to elevate the projects he works on.
For as many great moments as you’ll find on Wolves, there is certainly filler as well, including the three tracks leading up to the album closer. While it’s certainly brave of Story of the Year to come back with such a lengthy album, you can feel the effects of the seven-year layoff, as well. That isn’t to say there’s a lot of bad tracks, it just feels as though some might have fit better on another album or on a collection of b-sides.
The biggest surprise on Wolves is probably the final track. Story of the Year really went with the “go big or go home” approach with this closing song and it’s some of their most impressive work. There’s a spoken word piece thrown into the middle that solidifies the concepts in this album and ties everything together really well. The instrumentation in the final track is also impressive; the band really pushed themselves musically, which offers a counterpoint to the aforementioned layoff. Sometimes a little time off is necessary if a band is to come back and create another set of songs.
One final theme in this album is the band’s struggle with whether to reunite and release new music. When you’ve been a band for as long as Story of the Year (17 years, to be exact), it can be easy to grow monotonous, simply treat it as a job, and lose the passion for the creative process that was once so appealing. After a break, the band is back and seemingly stronger than ever, and Wolves is a beautiful testament to both human struggles and the joy that overrides those.
by Nadia Paiva
Nadia Paiva has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.