The Ghost Wolves – Man, Woman, Beast review

The Ghost WolvesForming as a musical duo in 2011, Carley and Jonathan Wolf describe their sound as “stomp and roll”, inspired by delta blues, loud garage rock, and American roots music. The married pair take their band title as a tribute to the primal and brutal sound they create, and to Carley’s ranch upbringing among hybrid wolves. As you might have guessed, this is not your standard “alternative-rock” band, and they don’t simply set the concept on fire and dance on the burning deck; they dose it in gasoline, light it up, drag it onto the jagged rocks and burn the crew inside. The sound they create is self-assured and true to only the power of music. And if not a bit ska-y.

Shotgun Pistol Grip starts of simply enough; quiet guitar and regular percussion open the album, before the pair’s vocals interject themselves. Directly contrasting each other, Carley’s Gwen Stefani style and Jonathan’s deeper voice combine and separate in turn to offer a sound that seems to be created by more than simply the two of them. What is noticeable in this track (and becomes more prominent throughout) is the way the duo milk the lyrics; each song has a hook that will indefinitely get stuck in your head, this one’s being “raised by the devil”.

Second track, Gonna Live, simply opens with “na na na na na” – repeated. Like much of the lyrics in the track, the repetition makes it easy to joining in blasting the lines out even on a first listen. With the minimal variation in the lyricism from Carley comes a strong trait of the album; her vocal style. Like much female-fronted grunge-ska, the high vocals are an acquired taste; like marmite, it becomes either the defining signature feature to make the track, or it’s nails down a blackboard. Whichever you choose, there’s no avoiding the talent in her voice, from her range to her dexterity. Baby Fang Thang, third track off the record, is the most recent to boast its own music video, and the best one to highlight the definitive sound the pair create – imagine a cross between Garbage and early No Doubt.

I think my all time favourite lyrics belong to next track, Grave Dollas. It’s not often you hear the phrase “Chinese takeout to my grave”, slipped into a track, combined with some of the highest notes feasibly possibly, before an abrupt, grunge-guitar close. Ride The Wolf begins with the focus on Carley’s softer vocals, with a backdrop of a select few riffs. The sound builds up with Jonathan’s percussion and barely-there whispering of “ride the wolf”, before the infectious hook of “ride into the night” holds control of the track until the just-over four minute close.

Regards straightforward, statement tracks, I Was Wrong is the epitome of them. Sharp feedback layers over staccato percussion, and the flippant “I used to believe in love, but I was wrong” is surprisingly harsh for a married couple, before another repetitive and loud track kicks in; Itch. When Carley’s vocals aren’t powering the track with the shockingly high and lengthy notes, wolf-like howls can be heard in the instrumental, another sign of the unique and striking sound they create. The album takes a turn for the urban with I’m Yo Mudda, repeated with the gangster tone throughout, again showcasing that there are no rules in genres that the duo intend to abide by.

“Hundred dollar bill and the body in the back”, is a line to grab your attention, if the violent, almost spat-out title lyric Attack Attack Attack didn’t. An almost-breakdown provides light relief from the onslaught of the chorus by faded out the guitar before the relentless gang-vocals pick it all up again. Percussion heavy Dangerous Moves mixes with more melodic vocals and varying lyricism, whilst keeping the stark and primal sound previously established, with Texan-style chords being fitting to a story line of a hit and run shooting. Lies I Told holds the same Texan style in the opening, and stripping back the pace makes the focus on Carley’s wild and unruly vocals all the more prominent.

Penultimate White Lily seems to take the edge of the previously harsh lyricism, holding the focus to the guitar riffs and the combined vocals forming a softer, more forgiving sound, roping in the wolfish sounds again. Unsurprisingly, the track is not entirely soft, and in the close the lyrics are lost to vicious riffs. Clashing drumsticks provide the steady backdrop to Carley’s vocal dominant finale track, before Jonathan adds the vocal depth to it and the tight instrumental colours the anger in the lyrics.

This is definitely an album to drive too, windows down and dancing in your seats, with hooks that’ll wind up near by traffic and screeching vocals that challenge you to join in – its a statement, and one that never fails to surprise.

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