Duke of Wolves
It’s Real is available at:
5th April 2016
THIS will be the second time I have reviewed Duke of Wolves…
in fairly quick succession. The reason I want to return to them- aside from having a new single out- is to take a look at the great Rock bands emerging right now. I have been getting excited that Royal Blood are back on the scene- well, sort of. When their self-titled debut album arrived two years ago, there was a lot of excitement: a British Rock band that evoked memories of the legends of the genre. Whilst (the album) had its fine moments and anthems; I worried there was little originality and mobility. The songs put you in mind of other artists too heavily: the likes of The White Stripes and Queens of the Stone Age came through too strongly. I know the boys are working on a new album: let’s hope there is an evolution and change. The guys claim it will take time for new material to surface: they want to great something rawer and heavier; put more time into the songs to ensure there is a natural progression. I am getting hung-up on the issues of originality- ironic, seeing as Led Zeppelin are in the midst of a plagiarism lawsuit over Stairway to Heaven’s similarity to Taurus by the band Spirit- because it is missing the point entirely. A lot of new Rock bands have an essence of bygone artists: that is not to say they should be criticised or ignored. Royal Blood’s back-to-basics, bare-boned sound manages to get the crowds jumping and speakers blowing. So long as (a particular band) injects enough personality and unique D.N.A. into their music; you should enjoy it and embrace something exciting and primal. I feel the U.S. is stealing a lot of focus: their best and brightest are in danger of eclipsing the finest we have in the U.K. Every time I go hunting for a Rock band, that same question pops into my head: Is Rock music on the decline? There is a school of thought that suggests bands that play Rock/Alternative lack the same magic and innovation as their forefathers.
While the band dollar is the most precious in music: making your way to a critic’s attention is quite a grueling and challenging thing. The reason people ask the question- whether Rock is dead- is because of the lack of opportunities in the local community. Most towns have some form of open mic night: the small numbers who attend these events do not help promote the music much. What do you do outside of that? Perhaps I am going on a tangent: it seems like there are few chances for Rock bands to get under the radar and have their music promoted. Duke of Wolves came together with that shared ideal: making music that gets the audiences engaged; songs that stand up to repeated battering. Knowing their frontman (Jim Lawton) for a while: I understand the struggles and realities inherent in the band market. His former incarnation- the look-set-for-the-big-time Crystal Seagulls- split and created shockwaves across the music world. An amazing act that seemed primed for international success: things came to an end and the members went their separate ways. Back with Duke of Wolves: this London-based band is filled with promise and sights to the future. While there are few opportunities away from the big cities- for new young bands right now- London does not suffer such a fate. The city is teaming with venues of all sorts: whatever your genre and sound; you are going to be catered for. The problem arises when you consider the competition in London. There are so many bands and musicians flocking here- excited from the drab and limited appeal of their hometowns- to seek success and longevity. Ben (drums and backing vocals), Jim (lead vocal and rhythm guitar); Orlando (lead guitar and backing vocals) and Sara (bass guitar and backing vocals) understand the hurdles that face them. They have a pretty loyal and solid London fanbase- one that stretches wider afield, in fact- and have gigs lined up- in no danger of being overlooked and forgotten. It is all well and good putting songs online: you can’t really get a good handle (on a band) unless you see them live. Our quartet is doing their best to play to as many as they can: they are gaining a great live reputation and emerging as one of our most impressive bands. Although Duke of Wolves have some notable influences- Queens of the Stone Age; Muse; Led Zeppelin- the guys have their own sound and way of working. Employing hints of other acts: the band is one of the toughest- and most promising- we have right now. I cannot wait to see how the group progresses and what they have next. With Royal Blood in the midst of a sophomore album: there is great excitement for British Rock and what it can achieve. I have reviewed a great many Rock bands over the years: few that are quite as instant and confident as Duke of Wolves. The four-piece will be keeping active over the coming months: taking their new single to the masses; gaining as much new support as they can. I have been obsessed with solo artists lately. It is great to be back in band territory and witnessing one of our hungriest artists go in full guns.
It’s Real and Hollow Eyes share similarities. Both are around the three-and-a-half minute mark: each track showcases an incredible chemistry in the band- songs that leave you breathless and amazed. It is rare to hear such confidence and conviction from a band that have just started out. Normally, a group will gig for a long time before recording a debut single. Said song will give you a taster of what to expect- there might be a gap before the next song. Duke of Wolves have gone in with a bang and are wasting little time. They know how the scene works: there are so many groups emerging; you need to remain in the consciousness and get the music out there. That is not to say their singles lack discipline and substance. Hollow Eyes proved they could create a song that was both live-sounding and well-honed. Each player stands in the memory and nobody is overlooked. Too many bands keep the bass low in the mix or have a rather unspectacular drummer in their ranks. Duke of Wolves have such a muscular and equal-rank line-up. The percussion is constantly avalanching and stunning; the bass keeps everything in-check and driving- the guitars create thunderstorms and hurricane. The band cites Led Zeppelin and Cream as idols; Muse and Queens of the Stone Age. If you count any of these acts as favourites: you should definitely check out the music from Duke of Wolves. The London quartet does not rattle off a third-rate tribute to their influences- like many artists do out there- instead, add suggestions of the aforementioned with elements from their past. Each member has been playing music for a long time- often in other bands- and brings their shared experience and talent into a stunning blend of Classic Rock and of-the-minute magic. I am not sure what plans are in mind for the remainder of this year. The guys will be looking at more new music and producing something E.P.-like (let’s hope). Right now, they are cementing themselves in the community and playing as many gigs as possible. This live experience helps when it comes to their music. The confidence they accrue on their road feeds directly into the songs. With every step, they become more assured, daring and gilded- they will only get stronger from here. If you loved Hollow Eyes and were wondering whether they could equal it- It’s Real certainly does not disappoint.
Beginning with a jumping and sparring riff: It’s Real gets down to business with very little mystery. Direct, to-the-point and barking: the song gets right in your face and stakes its claim. Meaty, siren-call strings are backed by a taut and steroid percussion. Those missing the anthemia bliss of Royal Blood will find much to enjoy from Duke of Wolves. The band goes in hard and strong: right from the first moments, you are hooked into It’s Real. Our front-man approaches the microphone with caution and concerns. Things are disturbing his dreams; bad thoughts and harsh experiences are unravelling- the problem is, they are not dreams. Real-life horrors are unfolding and leaving their scars. Lawton shows how much he has grown as a singer. When It’s Real started out; you get flavor notes of Muse’s Absolution-era work. Shades of Matt Bellamy can be heard in the voice: that same range and flourish: able to go from a tense and concentrated projection into a falsetto-laden hang. With his thoughts being taken away- the need to reclaim them and find some stability- there is edginess and darkness creeping in. With his voice rising and wailing in anxiety: our lead is afraid to turn the lights out; seemingly running from something haunting and unstoppable. In these early phases, you wonder what inspires the words. Maybe a relationship is exploding and both parties are at loggerheads. Maybe personal stresses and expectations are becoming too heavy- society, perhaps, is too dangerous and unpredictable. Whatever has influenced It’s Real will leave impressions on every listener.
The sizzling, fiery atmosphere does not abate: you are always at the mercy of the band’s brutal assault. Throughout It’s Real you get a nice mix of decades and genres. Blending Hard-Rock of the ‘70s- bits of Led Zeppelin- with Desert-Rock from the ‘00s- throw in a little Muse- and you have a song that will appeal to those who know their Rock heritage. Whilst Duke of Wolves have some clear influences; they do not sound too limited and too obvious. The London quartet beautifully balances the past and present into a song that gets hotter and harder as time progresses. This enflamed passion is perfectly emphasised by Lawton whose vocals are at their peak, here. Semi-operatic and filled with emotion: there are few singers that have such a range and control. The band are not exactly slouches, either. Props must be given to the groups as a whole. They have such a tightness and understanding. As fascinated as I was by the lyrics- trying to understand where they emanated from and what compelled them- your mind gets distracted. Before you submit yourself to curiosity; the guitars step out front and sting with viper-like toxicity. A wailing, stinging riff emerges: acting as a punctuation mark; the song is given new light and progression. Many acts are rather lazy and limited when it comes to composition. They tend to put very little imagination into their music. Duke of Wolves ensures there is invention, colour and surprise at every turn. It’s Real will strike a chord with Rick purists: those who favour their music loud, catchy and riff-laden. Our London band expertly bond primal, chest-beating simplicity with something more intricate, intelligent and nuanced. The effect is quite sensational. You will need a few spins of It’s Real for it to really sink in. The first play will see you struck and hit by the waves of sound and energy. Towards the end- or what you consider the end- the song dies down and you presume everything is wrapped up and completed. It would not be a Duke of Wolves track without some mystery and trickery. The final thirty seconds starts with some neat little riffing. Scratchy, blood-lusting and intense: things are not done here, for sure! Joining the rumble is the percussion which clatters in with immense authority and power. With the bass keeping everything straight, in-check and disciplined: the guitars and percussion kick up a gear and hit the ceiling. A little bit Them Crooked Vulture- shades of No One Loves Me & Neither Do I– and Queens of the Stone Age fuse with a distinct air of Duke of Wolves. Showing what a focused and confident proposition they are: even towards the final moments you are eager for much more. They keep your attention and ensure It’s Real never becomes anything less than essential. My mind kept looking for answers and clarity- behind those intriguing lyrics- but my heart and body was captive to the sweaty and animal-like composition. A song that is sure to get the live crowds fired-up and unified: It’s Real shows Duke of Wolves get stronger with every release.
Ben, Jim, Orlando, and Sara have unveiled a track that shows them at the height of their powers. You can tell how much live performances have done for them. Hollow Eyes proved how assured they were out of the blocks. If anything; their latest cut exceeds expectations and shows another step forward. Let’s hope the guys keep building and planning for the future. Aided by James Billinge- who produced the track- they have a solid foundation that is resonating with fans around London. I can see the guys touring more extensively around the U.K. Perhaps international dates will come calling in the future months. The guys have that universal sound that cannot be ignored or disliked. In spite of their influences-on-sleeve sound; the quartet have plenty of originality and unique flair. At every moment- throughout It’s Real– you find yourself immersed in the music and swept up inside it. Few bands can offer those kinds of qualities. For that reason: we all need to support and promote Duke of Wolves.
It’s Real provides a seamless 1-2 for the London band. When Hollow Eyes was unveiled a couple of months back, I was wary they would not be able to equal it: Duke of Wolves have shown a consistency that excited me greatly. I wonder how far they can go and what plans they have for the remainder of the year. The spirit in the camp is high and there is an incredible bond between the players. Duke of Wolves have that energy and passion that is hard to fake: you just know they will be rocking hard for years to come. I looked at the fate of British Rock at the top of this review. With bands like Royal Blood starting to put the U.K. back on the Rock map: how many other (similar-minded) artists are there around? There are plenty of eager groups around but many are facing challenges in their local community. Unless you are near to/live in a big city, what sort of opportunities is there around? Few towns are set-up to accommodate the ambitions of bands emerging: proper venues that can give a platform for our best musicians. There is another challenge when you consider London and the Internet. Social media- and music-sharing platforms- are the most-utilised forms of promotion in the modern age. Nearly every musician out there uses music-streaming services. With so much music going up there- on a daily basis it seems- how do you get on top of it? The best way to check out a band- and see what they are all about- is to witness them in the live setting. Many groups are bemoaning the lack of chances that are available right now. Social media can only get you so much acclaim and exposure: you need to get the faces into gigs; get the crowds hearing you up-close and personal. London is a natural refuge for bands that seek necessary opportunity and support. Given the mass that is arriving in the city, you have to ask the question: Are we going to see over-saturation in London? Maybe there is some truth; although the finest bands will make their voices heard.
Duke of Wolves are one of those acts that will keep getting bigger and find new success. Their first two singles have gained a lot of support and sharing: fans and listeners are getting behind them and showing love. Mixing the grit and epic-ness of Led Zeppelin and Muse; sprinkling in a little Wolfmother swagger into the pot- you have a band that is exploding with venom. It’s Real is a brash and authoritative statement from a brilliant young band. Can we see a Duke of Wolves E.P. before the end of the year? Let’s hope so as there are many eager ears that are ready and willing. I just know- when an E.P. does arrive- there will be depth and variation. What irked me about Royal Blood’s debut album was the lack of sonic diversity. Every song was hard, direct and primal: there were no softer and more reflective numbers. It would have been nice to hear the odd tender moment: give the record more balance and show some depth. I hope Duke of Wolves- if they do bring out a new record- will include something calmer and more considered. On April 22, the guys will play a gig at Camden Barfly (at 1am, to boot). It will give the capital the chance to hear It’s Real in the flesh: bring new followers the way of Duke of Wolves. Those who have stated Rock is on the slide- and its best days are done- would do well to show more faith in the bands we have in this country. Sure, music is a lot different to the glory days of the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘90s: we will never see those beautiful days ever again. That is not saying we should be dismissive and short-sighted. The U.K. has always been at the forefront when it comes to inventive and stunning bands. 2016 is no different and there are no signs of slowing down in the near-future. If you want to discover a Rock group that evokes memories of the past- some of the classic bands- yet keep things fresh and forward-thinking, then look no further. It’s Real is a tough and hypnotic deceleration from a quartet that is ensuring Rock music…
BURNS very bright indeed.
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