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A few years ago, I was all but ready to give up on Old Wounds. After catching my attention with their insanely heavy 2013 debut ‘From Where We Came Is Where We’ll Rest’ and 2015’s stellar follow-up ‘The Suffering Spirit’, the New Jersey 90s metalcore revivalists appeared to be on the cusp of great things. Then charismatic vocalist and frontman Kevin Iavaroni announced his departure from the group to focus on his career as a barber and those hopes seemed all but dashed. The group attempted a member shuffle over the next year and eventually put out new music with former drummer Brandon Gallagher on the mic, however the vibe and energy just wasn’t there anymore.
Fast forward to 2017 and Old Wounds came back with a vengeance and they sounded positively ravenous. Iavaroni returned to the fold and the band then released the devastating single ‘Only Your Enemies Leave Roses’, which meant that things looked very promising for LP#3. With Ben Waugh of label-mates Exalt on guitar, we now have the highly-anticipated release of the band’s third full-length album, ‘Glow’. Produced, mixed and mastered by Andreas Magnusson (The Black Dahlia Murder, Haste The Day, A Life Once Lost), who – fun fact, was also the drummer for criminally underrated metalcore act , Scarlet (seriously, check ’em out) – ‘Glow’ finds the quartet firing on all creative cylinders; now leaner, meaner and hungrier than ever before.
Listening to the record’s opening salvo of ‘Your God v. Their God’ and ‘Stripes’, it’s clear that both tracks function as a litmus test for the album’s overall tone and mood: Waugh’s intense, charging riffage, pounding rhythms from drummer Matt Guyre and Iavaroni’s blend of bloodcurdling shrieks and smooth, soaring cleans. While the opener provides a perfect example of ferocious metallic hardcore with a decisively 90s attitude, the latter track finds Iavaroni channelling his best Daryl Palumbo impression over a stomping mid-section groove: “You wanted a war?/You wanted a war?/You want a fucking war?”
Meanwhile, the group’s pre-release singles showcase the group’s versatility and evolution from their 2013 debut. Waugh unfurls an array of slithering riffs across ‘Give A Name To Your Pain’, as Iavaroni sings of love and rejection in the face of reason and a mundane existence, before the track erupts with a massive discordant breakdown. Album standout ‘To Kill For’ rests on melodic leads and Iavaroni’s impressive vocal range, as the tune mutates half-way through into a dead-set banger with a killer hook: “We are so self-destructive/Give me everything/I will take it all/And then give me more.” Chris Motionless of Motionless In White fame pops up for a surprise guest spot on ‘Failed Design’ that’s aggressive, direct and to the point. All of this happening right before the track transitions from Michael Weintraub’s crunchy bass tones into a outro that sounds like something Turnstile or Title Fight would fuck with.
Yet for every hardcore rager on ‘Glow’, there are some… curious sonic detours to be found. ‘Beauty Mark’ finds Old Wounds wading into goth-flavoured, 80s post-punk territory, that would appeal to fans of latter-day AFI, Cold Cave or even Placebo. ‘Surgical Dream’ seems like a half-written addendum rather than a fully-fleshed out creative idea, with Iavaroni giving a strangely self-referential PSA over a largely instrumental track: “Every sin will catch up to those who patiently wait.” ‘I’m Only Smiling On The Outside’ starts off promising, with frenetic guitar passages from Waugh and up-tempo beats from Guyre, before it completely runs out of steam and falls off into a weird abyssal transition.
However, perhaps the starkest change-up occurs on ‘..Vanilla Filth..’, which feels somewhat like a hyper-industrial, drum machine assisted acid trip. The track pulsates with Iavaroni’s shouted vocals before it drops into a distorted, pitch-shifted vocal sample. The primary lyrical themes on ‘Glow’ are those of religion, devotion, idolatry and sin, which makes it fitting that the sample used here is from HBO’s outstanding crime series, True Detective (only the good season thought; if you know, you know). In the series first episode, detectives Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) and Rust Cole (Matthew McConaughey) are having an exchange of faith, in which Cole outlines his position in the below except (reproduced in full for context, and the sample used by Old Wounds is indicated in the final two sentences):
“I’d consider myself a realist, alright? But in philosophical terms I’m what’s called a pessimist… I think human consciousness is a tragic misstep in evolution. We became too self-aware. Nature created an aspect of nature separate from itself – we are creatures that should not exist by natural law… We are things that labour under the illusion of having a self; that accretion of sensory experience and feelings, programmed with total assurance that we are each somebody, when in fact everybody’s nobody… I think the honourable thing for our species to do is to deny our programming. Stop reproducing, walk hand in hand into extinction – one last midnight, brothers and sisters opting out of a raw deal.”
While True Detective samples may be dime a dozen for recent hardcore records (Cursed Earth and xRepentancex), it’s effective in conveying the feelings of isolation, disgust and visceral self-loathing that Iavaroni displays within his lyricism across ‘Glow’. The album then closes out with ‘No One Listens When You Fall Apart’, a sombre dirge which finds Iavaroni juxtaposing nursery rhymes with existential ruminations on the album’s fatalist message: “Always the wrong one, never the right words/Bruise, glow, take it slow/The candle will burn to an end/From birth through defects, I would never change/… I am a light that has died.”
‘Glow’ is exactly what Old Wounds needed to do in coming back from the brink. It’s an album that, while hardly perfect, displays real growth, maturity and creative risks, yet also keeps the restless energy and spirit that they brought to their previous records firmly intact. While the track sequencing can be slightly jarring and off-putting at times, the album’s brisk pace (a cursory 28-minutes) means that you can blitz through the entire thing in one easy sitting, and then jam that shit on repeat and have at it again. If ‘Glow’ is any indication, the lights aren’t going out for Old Wounds anytime soon.
- Your God v. Their God
- Beauty Mark
- Give A Name To Your Pain
- Surgical Dream
- I’m Only Smiling On The Outside
- To Kill For
- ..Vanilla Filth..
- Failed Design
- No One Listens When You Fall Apart
‘Glow’ is out now through Good Fight Music – streaming and digital copies here.