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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Wolverine

The Window Purpose

Review by Gary Hill

Not many progressive rock bands can say that they started out as a death metal band. In fact, unless I'm missing someone Wolverine is the only one. There are many variants of an old adage that you can take the animal out of the wild, but you can't take the wild out of the animal. That holds true of this Wolverine. They still possess a heavy metallic edge and death vocals show up occasionally in the mix. Make no mistake, though, these guys are definitely a progressive rock band. They just happen to get heavier than any other prog band I have ever heard. There are sections of powerful prog on display on this disc that their contemporaries probably wish they could pull off. Some of this stuff is incredible. I also have to add that as someone who has a bit of an aversion to death growls, in this context they work.

"The Window Purpose" is actually their full-length debut. It is reissued now with some new material and new artwork added and on a larger label. Again there are a lot of bands who would probably kill to have such a strong debut. There is not a weak track in the bunch. Some are stronger than others, but everything holds up well. Probably the closest parallel in terms of musical style would be Dream Theater, but that doesn't really cover it. These guys have a sound all their own. They can drop it to the sedate and pretty or crank it out with the best thrash and death metal bands - yet they pull it all together into a progressive rock framework that holds true to the tradition of that style. All I have to say is that I can't believe I waited this long to discover these guys. This album may well be one of the best prog releases of the year.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
End
This song is just ambience and atmosphere. I have to say that it seems a bit odd to call the first song on album, "End", but I like it.
My Room
This one thunders in as frantic metal, but quickly turns more prog, while still being quite heavy, feeling a lot like Dream Theater. As it carries on it shifts to a more mellow approach, and this mode provides the backdrop for the first verse. They crank it back up to metallic territory, getting the most heavy and aggressive I've ever heard a prog band become, then they pull it back to more DT like territory. They then drop it back to the more melodic and sedate. They bump up the volume, then run through a number of changes in an incredible instrumental journey. This is a very extended and powerful jam. The band returns to vocal territory with a very powerful verse then launch into another instrumental excursion, this one just a little weird. Next comes a chorus and a fast paced Crimsonish jam takes it to end the piece.
His Cold Touch
This one is divided into two segments, but only in title, so it's a little hard to be positive where the change happens. This comes in as a sedate prog ballad and run through for quite a while in this style before pounding out in metallic fury for a time. It drops back down to the sedate after this. As it resolves upward keys add nice overlayers to the mix, then they move into another heavier DTish mode. It drops back to just percussion and sound effect keys after a time. Then the band launches an impressive and powerful instrumental excursion. Next a very pure dark almost death metal vocal comes overtop of DT like music. It then shifts to mellower, but still quite energized and rocked out modes to continue on in a powerful DTish vein. After they run like this for a time, the deathish vocal line returns and holds it for longer this time, but the move beyond that by bringing in one of the most powerful triumphant sounding prog elements of the disc. This section is one of the most potent prog passages I have every heard. They drop it to the more dramatic, then more sedate to end.
...
OK, bonus points are awarded right off the bat for the unusual song title. This is a pretty, complex and intricate acoustic guitar solo.
Leaving Yesterday
This comes in in a mellow jazzy mode. The band bump it into Rushish ("A Farewell To Kings" era) territory for a shot time, but turn it sedate for the verses which include a duet between male and female vocals. The arrangement on this is incredible, and this section is so powerful it's unbelievable. They drop it to the more mellow later, then launch into an instrumental exploration that's short and a little fusionish. They then bump it up just a little to Kansas on steroids mode and carry on with the duet type vocals. They then drop it back to balladic form. As it ramps back up the female vocals return to continue the duet. It then drops to a more mellow section and the woman's vocals come in first here. Eventually they are joined by the male. They eventually charge this up and run it into an incredibly evocative and powerful section. The entire arrangement here s so strong it's hard to believe these guy s have been so underground for so long. The ending section is simply incredible.
Towards Loss
This starts sedate, then a frantic bass line enters hinting at a furious explosion that eventually comes. The band jumps out into a heavy and impressive prog instrumental journey that calls to mind Dream Theater. As the vocals enter they are all death metal at first, then they change it over to the melodic. They move through in this mode for a time then, turn it mellower again. As the intensity bumps back up more melodic vocals are accompanied by the death metal ones, then the band shift it into a very strong prog instrumental jam. They ramp this into another powerful DTish verse section then jump into the instrumental segment that ends the track.
The Storm Inside
Percussion starts this, then fusionish modes take it before it turns heavier. They run in an almost metal, but yet powerfully prog style for a time, changing up the progression. Then they drop it toward the sedate for the verse. They run in this mellower prog style for quiet a time. After a while they bring harder edged elements moving it into a new hard-edged prog powered up segment. Then a new powerful instrumental movement takes it. When the vocals return they are the death type. Then, the band drops it down to the sedate to carry forward. A cool, slightly jazzy acoustic based jam takes it after a verse in the other mode. They jump this to another full on prog rock excursion.
Coma
This starts with a beeping, but the band quickly launches into an ultra heavy prog rock jam that's very cool. As the vocals enter they are death growls overtop a melodic musical progression. After a verse like this the "sung" vocals return, but the death metal ones come back in a bit. They turn it into a triumphant sounding jam with more traditional vocals again. Then a frantic hard edge prog exploration ensues before it drops way back to just percussion and the bass making a heard beat. They being a slow gradual building here, this becoming a sedate atmospheric jam with understated processed vocals. They eventually build it up to real vocals and a slightly more energized prog movement. After a time this pumps up into the more DT like stylings for an instrumental progression. Then a verse is done over top of this. They launch into a very high-energy jam, then move to another prog verse gaining in intensity as they do. This verse closes the track.
Release
Piano starts this rather short instrumental and carries it for a time. As the other instruments join, the song becomes a pretty and fairly sedate jam that feels a bit Satriani-ish at times.
Post Life
Pretty, but slightly dark acoustic driven elements start this and carry it, gradually building up very slowly. After a long time, they launch into an expansive somewhat heavier exploration that is very effective. This one is quite pretty and very powerful, but eventually hints of dissonant chaos emerge. They never fully take over, though, instead the song drops to atmospheric ambience to end.
Again!
This starts with acoustic guitar and after a little while the other instruments join in a pretty and sedate prog journey. Quickly, though, this turns very metallic and death growls come in over top. After a time melodic vocals join in, then the cut shifts back towards mellower prog. The heavier death oriented returns, though and the band turns this into a heavy prog jam with both types of singing. They eventually drop it down to another pretty and sedate melody. This carries it as more energized vocals lead to a new triumphant prog jam. The band then launch into another full on DT like sequence before more death metal fury takes it, but the melodic vocals take control again. Another sedate section takes the track in new entertaining direction. They eventually ramp this back up to a more energized and powerful extended jam that serves eventually as the outro to the piece.
 
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