It's truly a shame that a band like Ire Wolves can't and won't enjoy the kind of success that they deserve, given their artistry. You'll never see these guys playing at 4:30 in the afternoon to a sold-out Bayfront crowd, opening for Trampled by Turtles. On one hand, sure, they're not palatable to the majority of the people who would go see Trampled by Turtles, so it's kinda their own fault for being an atmospheric sludge-metal band, or whatever they should be called. But the bummer is that Ire Wolves are as good at what they do as TBT is at what they do, and it's tough to think of a rock band from the Twin Ports with as much ability to envision and execute as they possess.
Alas, Ire Wolves is trapped in banjo-land, and their music is moonshine in a craft-beer world. Their new release is the five-track “Bleeding Aparte,” which the band considers an album even though it doesn't cross the half-hour mark (traditionally the point where an EP becomes an LP, but whatever). It's a brief statement in a sense, but it's also a full-bodied voyage through space with crushing downtuned riffs and agonized dying-Viking vocals. It's “Game of Thrones” to everybody else's “Partridge Family.”
As with the group's prior two albums – 2014's “The Ascetic” and 2017's “Heirs” – Ire Wolves demonstrate themselves to be a band with an astounding ability to produce music that sounds highly professional and polished while also being downright terrifying at times. There are moments where the group goes in for the kill with screaming and maxed-out riffs, but the dominant force on the record is the band's tendency to stretch out and make cinematic-sounding instrumental passages that sound like sci-fi music or even psychedelic rock, at times.
“Sentient” is perhaps the high point for the band's ambitions along these lines. There are gorgeous, rich textures everywhere. One can almost picture watching the sunrise over the Grand Canyon or some such majesty while listening to the instrumental unfold over eight minutes. A heavy riff in the middle (which boasts some nice martial drums from Tim Simmons) is bookended by fantastic, slow-burn soundscapes, and it's stupendous.
The trio's patience is a key to their success. They're not afraid to let a composition slowly evolve, bit by bit, until they smash it to bits with a world-conquering riff and then start the process anew. This shows a lot of maturity and sophistication, and the fact that the band can match their ambitions with their skills and execution is a thing to behold.
“Return to Dust” is another epic, with a spaghetti-western intro that leads into a riff that's both heavy as osmium and triumphant-sounding as a fanfare. After a bit of shouty vocals, the band transitions into a segment that mixes My Bloody Valentine with an almost industrial feel.
Closer “Throwing Stones at a God” is more post-rock than expected – while it contains a metric ton of heaviness, there's a bit of underground alt-metal to it that makes it closer to someone like Big Business than Cave In or Sumac.
Bottom line is, you probably won't be able to listen to this if you can't handle dudes yelling like they're being disemboweled over crushing riffage. But the fact is that Ire Wolves are one of the best bands of any genre this region has ever produced, and “Bleeding Aparte” is just more evidence of that.
Artist: Ire Wolves
Album: “Bleeding Aparte”
Recorded by: Ryan Rusch at The Weight Room, Washburn
Personnel: Michael Trepanier (guitar, vocals), Dustin Fennessey (bass), Tim Simmons (drums)
Upcoming show: 9 p.m. Friday with Lungs and The Documentary at Blush, 18 N. 1st Ave. W.
Tickets: $5 at the door