Label: Throatruiner Records
Bandcamp stream: Link
There’s countless bands operating within hardcore (and its many bastard offshoots) today that will try and sell themselves on their emotional intensity. Whether it’s a sense of negativity and hopelessness, or something more furious and raging, this sense of open emotions, whether sincere or not, is probably the thing that defines most modern hardcore. France’s Direwolves are no exception to this. The 24 minutes of Aegri Somnia (roughly translated as “Troubled Dreams”) are filled with an intensity that can’t be faked, the band wearing their heart on their sleeve and producing some very exciting, undeniably emotional music that is as vicious as the band’s namesake.
Even the introductory track, “Introspection”, bristles with emotion and tension, the guitars building over the rhythm section before “Insights” begins the album proper, hoarsely shouted vocals making their presence felt over some very creative, pummelling modern hardcore. It’s remarkable how many changes and ideas the band fit in the song given its 1 minute running time, and it follows straight through into “The Blindness That Keeps You Warm” which doesn’t let up, with some soaring guitars over heavy riffs and a pounding rhythm section. It’s not a simple, unimaginative beating though; the band slows things down around halfway through the song, a calmer moment neatly leading in to a mid-tempo riff that is sure to get a great reaction live.
Furthermore, tracks such as “Holy Treason” and “Keep It Clear” demonstrate influences beyond what might be expected, with the band creating some music that belongs as much to the heavier end of the post-rock spectrum as it does to hardcore. With a lot of bands, it’s fairly obvious when they’re trying to play a post-rock section, and it often comes across as more a case of imitation than inspiration, yet that’s not the case on Aegri Somnia. The band keep the feeling of hardcore, emotional intensity whilst simultaneously bringing to mind the kind of soundscapes that the best post-rock can, and switch back to more typical modern hardcore passages with ease. “Holy Treason” in particular features numerous shifts in emphasis, all feeling natural and organic, and it only adds to the emotional intensity of the album. It’s wildly ambitious, and incredibly successful.
It’s not all about shifts in style and tone, though. There’s plenty of more relatively straight-forward moments where the band stick to more typical structures and styles, and they’re just as effective as the more overtly ambitious songs; just witness the moment when the band lock in to a riff towards the end of “Sighs And Whisper”. Songs such as “The Liar’s Choice” are refreshing in their relative simplicity, and stop the album from becoming too complex and overwhelming. It’s still an emotional pummelling, highly intense listen that demands attention, but it could easily become bogged down under the weight of its own vision, too complex for its own good, and it’s to the band’s credit that this is never the case. Even at the album’s ending climax, with the last three songs being some of the more ambitious and defiant, it is engaging and crushing because of its emotional intensity, rather than feeling overwhelming and exhausting.
There’s a lot of top quality hardcore bands coming out of France in recent years, and on the back of Aegri Somnia, Direwolves deserve to be recognised as amongst the best of them; their first EP Me From Myself, To Banish was good, with their ambition already on display, but this is a huge step up. Aegri Somnia is a thrilling, hugely impressive album of modern hardcore, and is another great release from the ever-excellent Throatruiner Records, who are offering the record for free download as well as on LP and CD.