Opinions around The Blackout have always been divided. People either love or hate this Welsh post-hardcore outfit and ever since the band shifted to a sound more suited for festivals and radio play – opinion seems to have swung in the direction of fans accusing them of selling out. Especially when they released their recent album Start the Party. The Blackout are no strangers to criticism, especially from people who say they are fans of the band, but want them to return to their old sound. It would seem that a band is no longer allowed to create the music that they want to make anymore. That being said, Start the Party did seem like it was something that Cooking Vinyl Records, their label at the time, made the band create.
With that being said, after disappearing off the radar, The Blackout has returned with an EP that they had full control over. Earlier in the year, they launched a Kickstarter campaign and urged fans to help fund their new EP Wolves, a bold decision that clearly paid off. The band went into the studio and a few months later they emerged with a finished EP and it is their best work to date.
Wolves is an enormous middle finger towards every single person that gave them flak and told them they wouldn’t make it as a band. The opening song is a clear indication of that. “Wolves” is The Blackout at their finest. Pent-up aggression and unbridled fury emerges from the song. Aggressive and melodic riffs give the song a menacing atmosphere; an atmosphere that is enhanced by slightly distorted and muffled vocals on the main parts of the song which are punctuated by Sean Smith’s sharp screamed vocals. The chorus of “Wolves” is an outright blatant statement of “Look at me. I am more successful than you”. Smith delivers the lyrics of “You threw me to the walls / but now I’m the leader of the pack / and now I’m bringing you down” with a sneering burst of attitude and cavalier rock-‘n-roll attitude.
The sneering aggression of “Wolves” continues onto “Liars” with Smith delivering brilliant screamed vocals that reflect their precise stance on all the people who turned against them when they changed their sound. In a way, “Liars” feels like a song that is directed at all the fans who started to complain about the direction the band was taking and insulting them for it. The lyrics of “we’re sick / we’re sick / we’re sick of all this shit” could possibly be the most unoriginal lyrics after the lyrics to a Justin Bieber song, but everything becomes brilliant when delivered in angry gang vocals.
The rest of the EP is dominated by a particularly brilliant mixture of aggression of melody. “Pieces” is done in a similar style to many of the tracks on Hope while “Hold On” hits you with the same sound that brought The Blackout to the forefront of the UK rock scene. “Chains” hits you with what sounds incredibly like a passing commentary on how record labels can oppress a musician. It also sounds like The Blackout are embracing Smith’s role as a self-help columnist for Rocksound and delivering a song that encourages people to stand up for themselves.
Whatever the message that is present on Wolves, there is one that stands out from all the rest. That message is that The Blackout are back and they are not scared to get up in your face with the angriest combination of punk and post-hardcore that the world has seen in a good while.