Time takes a toll on those undecided
Betting on faith no actions required
Praying for change but he’s stuck on the sin
He can’t make friends when he’s always kneeling
Brother Wolf, hailing from the storied city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, is an individual of manifold talents, transcending the mere title of musician. His academic tenure as a professor in Communication Studies (as his alter ego, Benjamin Hunter) is but one facet of his extensive repertoire; he is also a published zine author, artist, and has lent his considerable expertise to the production of a number of albums for a diverse roster of artists across the Midwest and further afield.
With the release of After Fear, his sophomore studio endeavour, Brother Wolf offers an introspective commentary on the seismic events that have shaped the early part of the decade, from the global pandemic to the insurrection of January 6th. In this latest project, he convenes a group of accomplished musicians: Matt Younker, whose percussion expertise has been honed in bands such as Ozenza and The War Between; bassist Britt Younker, also of Ozenza fame; guitarist Justin Sharrow, with credits including Brena and UTO; and pianist Jennifer Dodde.
After Fear ushers its audience into a world of post-punk reverie, exploring the layered emotions and experiences of our shared human condition. Brother Wolf stands at the center of this ensemble, not only composing but also playing each instrument, crafting arrangements that marry the strum of guitars with the occasional blare of horns, the warmth of strings, and the clarity of piano melodies—all coalescing around the gravitational pull of the bass. In the echoes of his work, one might discern the influences of such eclectic artists as The Divine Comedy, Beck, and The Flaming Lips, yet the result is unequivocally Brother Wolf’s own visionary statement.
Wait, the inaugural track, greets its listeners with a captivating melody and vocals that linger in the memory like an unanswered question. The voice, reminiscent of Wayne Coyne’s ethereal timbre, carries the weight of the era marked by isolation and waiting—a palpable nod to the pandemic’s quiet desolation. Through a landscape of enigmatic verse, the song serves as a meditation on identity in the face of prolonged absence, a commentary on the constrained nature of human contact, aspirations deferred, and the intrinsic value of every passing moment.
This piece is a gentle urging to peel back the layers of routine, to reconnect with the fundamental virtues of kindness and gratitude. It’s a search for authenticity in a world where relationships are often mediated by the impersonality of digital interfaces. How do we re-evaluate what binds us when the touch is distant? How do we cherish the connections that sustain us beyond the realm of the virtual?
Owe It All To You surges with raw post-punk vitality, a fast-paced anthem of Brother Wolf’s triumph over addiction. Each chord is a heartbeat, each refrain a step towards liberation. Meltdown Breakthrough casts an electric guitar’s dystopian spell, Brother Wolf’s gritty voice entwines with a soundscape of desolation, echoing the yearning to rekindle a fractured friendship. Both tracks, intense and reflective, underscore the tumult of internal and external worlds colliding, the quest for redemption, and the poignancy of human connection amidst a landscape forever altered.
Snakes marks a departure from its album counterparts, embracing a synthetic and electric soundscape, distinguished as the most atmospherically rich track, weaving repetitive whispers with a backdrop of drones. Accompanied by a video spotlighting Sophia Jacobs, muse and spouse of Benjamin Hunter, it offers a haunting visual complement.
Worthless Billionaire is a satirical number inspired by the turbulence of Elon Musk’s disastrous Twitter takeover. This cunning track envelops listeners in the psyche of a callous magnate, blind to the societal decay wrought by their avarice. Its delivery melds a biting wit with a chilling edge, laying bare a critique of rampant wealth and influence’s corrosive impact in today’s world.
Recognizing interlaces strings with precise rhythms, examining the tension between faith and identity. Its reflective lyrics and the moment of liberation from religious constraints underscore the profound struggle for personal change against a backdrop of devout isolation.
Something Better, with its haunting keyboard and insistent bass, gives voice to a child’s yearning for ideological escape from their parents’ post-January 6th conspiratorial fervour. The track crescendos into a psychedelic plea for evolution, echoing the potent idea that wisdom can also flow from the young, suggesting a beacon of hope for familial and societal transformation.
The phrase “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law” is a central tenet of Thelema, a spiritual philosophy or religion that was developed by the early 20th-century British writer, mountaineer, and occultist Aleister Crowley. Thelema is derived from the Greek word θέλημα, meaning “will” or “intention.” This principle suggests that individuals have their own unique purpose or “true will” in life, and that they should discover and live in accordance. The concept is not intended to endorse simply doing whatever one pleases, but rather implies that one should seek out the inner nature or spiritual truth of their being and follow that path diligently. It’s a call to live authentically in accordance with one’s own individual will rather than conforming to societal expectations or external moral codes.In the anthemic ‘Star,’ the anthem urges self-discovery and shedding hatred.
Concluding the album with an echo of its commencement, Present crafts a sense of coherence that encapsulates the collection. This final piece boasts a production of expansive cinematic flourish, magnifying the emotive arc of the record. In this denouement, Brother Wolf’s vocal performance rises to a luminescent climax, his harmonies channeling a Bowie-like resonance that hums with optimism. The words venture into the philosophy of remaining anchored in the immediacy of life, underscoring the folly of losing oneself in a labyrinth of what-ifs and illusory musings.
After Fear is out now under the Wolf Den / Beer City ASCAP label.
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