, May 2nd, 2013 16:04
Upon realising that Wolf People's riff-heavy folk rock has certainly not beam beamed in from the murkiest corners of the 70s, one must surely ask themselves - is this mere revivalism? Even back in the days of wide-bottomed pantaloons and pachouli smoke, folk rock artists had their eyes fixed on the past, whether through folk traditions or Tolkien's fantastical creations.
Fortunately, Wolf People are able to dip their toes into prog's expansive waters without getting lost in pomposity. Rather than the stale reanimation of a long-buried corpse, they inject their influences with an honest vitality that keeps them truly alive.
Throughout Fain - the band's second album - folk melodies meet visceral fuzz-rock, never sounding quite like anyone else specifically, but a unique blend that never coalesced at the time. Led Zeppelin weren't miles away, but their folk tendencies were more of a detour from the pursuit of swaggering rock & roll stardom. Wolf People take both routes in equal measure, counting influences from the psychedelic Mighty Baby to the delicate tones of Fairport Convention. Paying homage to the greats of decades past is nothing unusual, but it's rarer to find a group willing to go all the way - not diluting the cultural detritus that comes their way into accessible hits, but revelling in its primordial resonance.
Opening track 'Empty Vessels' lures you in with pristine guitar chimes, overlaid by psychedelic soloing that comes across as semi-improvised. Vocalist Jack Sharp does nothing to play down their folk credentials, his regional accent lilting gracefully atop the band's aural witchcraft. As the jaunty melody near the beginning of lead single 'All Returns' dances from the fretboard, there's a tinge of Renaissance Faire about it, but only for a short time - the song darts from place-to-place, dropping into serenity before becoming engulfed in cacophonous noise at a moment's notice. Whether by skill or good fortune, it all fits.
'When The Fire Is Dead In The Grate' recalls early Black Sabbath, from its lumbering riff to masterfully-executed drum fills, but they're no doom-worshippers. Once again, the folksy touches are abundant, culminating in extended instrumental passages that don't overstay their welcome. 'Athol' writhes in its ominous tonality, while 'Hesperus' gleams like the evening star with subtly-mixed female backing vocals, before monstrously heavy bass comes to the fore.
Reverb-heavy ballad 'Answer' glides along on luscious harmonies, followed by the historical storytelling of 'Thief'. Focused on the first-person viewpoint of an arrested highwayman, Sharp describes it as "a form of tourism. You can visit but not live in the mind of an appalling human being." Despite the character's roguish behaviour, however, it's a tale that provokes empathy: "And now the irons are locked around my hands and feet as we make our way along the road."
By the time that finisher 'NRR' kicks into gear with propulsive rhythms against supercharged distortion, the entire record has burrowed its way into your subconscious mind. Don't expect it to leave any time soon.