The second album is one of the most important entries in an artist’s discography. The success of a debut album leads to infinitesimal scrutiny of nuance and progression, while the failure of a first record leads its follow-up into an influential moment in the artist’s lifespan. More often than not, the second album of an artist in the metalcore world finds itself lending to more influence than its predecessor; a combination of traditional metal, melodic singing, and even stadium rock find its way into the provided music that was primarily dominated by heavier elements. Whether or not said direction benefits the artist is mostly determined on a case-by-case basis; groups such as Bring Me the Horizon and Fit for a King have been almost universally lauded for expanding their sound past traditional metalcore, while others have been essentially pushed back into their original genre following poor reviews (Like Moths to Flames and We Came as Romans are the bands that came to mind for comparison). Despite the ever-changing opinion that the public holds over music, some bands have been able to prevail over the fabled “sophomore slump” and garner a larger fanbase despite not sacrificing artistic integrity. The growing subgenre of “nu-metalcore” has benefitted from fans wanting more aggressive metal while adding components of other subgenres rather than commercial intake. Alpha Wolf, known for their debut album Mono (with former vocalist Aidan Holmes) and their 2019 EP Fault found themselves in the predicament of having to appease to both fans wanting a worthy long-play (to prove they can sustain longevity) and enthusiasts tuning in to determine if new vocalist Lochie Keogh was more than a one-release wonder. With a vice grip on the genre’s finer aspects and a cutthroat approach to the evolution of their overall sound, A Quiet Place to Die succeeds at not only Alpha Wolf’s expense but as a staple of the genre itself.
A Quiet Place to Die opens with its title track; a cacophonous onslaught of chugging guitars and screeching distortion engulfs the listener with a mix that is one of the cleanest I have personally heard. “Creep” keeps up the faster pace with frenzied instrumentals and several stop-start moments that seem to be specifically designed to amplify the heaviness of the music itself. Multiple breakdowns provide a “live is better” facet of observation to it; it is easy to imagine a wall of death forming at numerous parts of the three-minute track. “Golden Fate; Isolate” is one of the songs that has had a lot of hype surrounding it due to its place in the “Golden Fate” saga that Alpha Wolf has spanned across their discography. Unrelenting and dark lyrical matter catapult this track into a new level of appreciation; in my opinion, this Golden Fate entry takes the trophy of the best output. “Akudama”, the following track, remains my favorite song on the record for a multitude of reasons. Keogh’s mosh call of “akudama” remains one of the most badass sections of music I have heard in recent times, and the elements of groove really give the track legs on its own to stand on.
“Acid Romance” contains some of the best vocal work Keogh has put into the band, with shrill fry screams penetrating the dissonance of the guitars before seamlessly transitioning into guttural bellows. The subdued turntable scratches also add a flair of originality to the mix. “Rot in Pieces” provides another lightning-paced offering with powerful drumming by way of Mitch Fogarty. The back third of the track manifests a powerful breakdown complete with wailing electronics and down-tuned instrumentals for an emphatic punch. “bleed 4 you” is one of the more experimental tracks on the record; softer instrumentals (relative to what we have heard so far) and the addition of female vocals add a layer of emotionality to the record.
“Ultra-Violet Violence” has one of the coolest progressions as far as tempo change and overall stylistic shifts go. The two-step in the middle of the track had me flailing all over my extremely tiny dorm room. Unfortunately, the breakdown falls a little bit flat in comparison to the previous efforts on the record, but that can be ignored for the other positive characteristics this song carries. “The Mind Bends to a Will of Its Own” suffers from the same reasons that “Ultra-Violet Violence” does: a sense of fatigue at this point in the record is entirely plausible, and nothing really new is showcased on this song. “Restricted (R18+)” is one of the most intimate songs as far as lyrical content goes. I feel that the music video is important to watch in conjunction with understanding the track; the sheer amount of anger and chaos that unfolds over three-plus minutes goes hand in hand with the subject matter. “don’t ask…” closes the record with another glimpse of ambiance that we saw earlier with “bleed 4 you”. The atmosphere that guitarists Scottie Simpson and Sabian Lynch create makes this song a standout to close out a phenomenal outing.
I could ramble on and on about the technical proficiencies of A Quiet Place to Die and try and decipher hidden meanings that reside within the subtext of the record. I won’t do that though, and I don’t really see a reason for someone to pick this record apart. Alpha Wolf has displayed a massive amount of work ethic and production to create an opus that rivals some of current metalcore’s headliners. The work speaks for itself, and I see nothing but good things coming from this masterpiece of a record.
I give A Quiet Place to Die by Alpha Wolf a 10 out of 10.
Standout tracks from AQPTD include “Creep”, “Acid Romance”, and “don’t ask…”.
- “A Quiet Place to Die”
- “Golden Fate; Isolate”
- “Acid Romance”
- “Rot in Pieces”
- “bleed 4 you”
- “Ultra-Violet Violence”
- “The Mind Bends to a Will of Its Own”
- “Restricted (R18+)”
- “don’t ask…”