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Wolverine - Communication Lost - 80%

ConorFynes, December 9th, 2011

Just when I thought all of the fresh talent in prog metal was hiding towards the more extreme side of the spectrum, I am introduced to this band, the Swedish quintet Wolverine. Although this is the band's fourth album to date, 'Communication Lost' will likely be the first that many hear of the band, due to the greater publicity they have received for it. Although I am rarely one to fall into the trap of hype, Wolverine was certainly a band I had heard great things about from more than a couple music experts.Although I was expecting Wolverine to fall into the same rut of Dream Theater or Symphony X that so many melodic prog metal bands do, the change of pace here is refreshing, and while not an entirely new breath of fresh air than what I have already heard in the style, Wolverine do plant themselves as one of the last vestiges of hope in a style that I personally think got tired over a decade ago.

My personal cynicisms for melodic prog metal aside, Wolverine are a truly impressive act, and the fact that I find myself so endeared to them with all things considered should be a testament to their strength as an act. Musically, Wolverine is not such a far cry from compatriots Pain of Salvation; their music is heavy at times, but always melodic, and resists the temptation to become an overly technical wankfest a la Dream Theater. Instead, Wolverine bases 'Communication Lost' around the long lost art of proper songwriting; their music uses sometimes complex musicianship, but it is always based in a tight composition, and this really grabs my attention. The vocals here are often the center of attention atop tasteful instrumentation, the atmosphere is kept somewhat dark and melancholic throughout, and- coming as a surprise to someone that was expecting a metal album- tastefully mellow. Wolverine is instead heavy prog rock throughout most of this, although I would have to say that the vocals keep a metallic tinge to the music. Stefan Zell's voice is generally a lower register tenor, with a stern tone to his delivery. His real highlights are when he goes and hits higher notes, which he does beautifully; one really wonders why he doesn't sing up there more, because his high register stuff is much more impressive.

The songwriting here is generally the highlight of the album. Everything is beautifully produced and polished, but the sound stays organic; a sure sign of a successful studio job. The songwriting really caught my attention from the first listen onwards though; while the atmosphere that Wolverine makes on 'Communication Lost' rarely becomes upbeat or cheery, they get the sadness across with a variety of different sounds. 'Pulse' is one of the most memorable tracks here, using some lively electronics to create a hook. 'Into The Great Nothing' makes perfect use of those upper pitch vocals that Stefan Zell does so well, and gets fairly heavy, only to be trailed by a nice acoustic passage in 'Poison Ivy'. The highlight moments on 'Communication Lost' are brilliant, although it would have been nice to hear even a couple more of them as the album progresses. The album is one of the most consistent records I have heard throughout the year, but it does feel like Wolverine keeps their sound a little too restrained; still a vast preference from the overindulgent noodling that the Dream Theater clones adhere themselves to, but 'Communication Lost' could have used a little more of the great, powerful heaviness that they only seem to hint at here. All the same, it gets me excited to see what else that the band has in store.

Wolverine are a band that I was not expecting to impress me, but they did well to leave an impression on me; 'Communication Lost' is an expansive collection of tracks that all succeed in delivering some sort of dark quality to them. Although I could still draw some Pain of Salvation comparisons to the band, they do have a more adventurous sound going for them than much prog metal, and they have been placed on the map for me after hearing what they have to offer from 'Communication Lost'.

Into the Great Nothing - 92%

GuntherTheUndying, August 25th, 2011

The one barrier separating Wolverine's "Still" and the long-awaited "Communication Lost" was a five-year stretch that included much waiting and patience, but finally Wolverine's slumber ended and they released what might be their seminal album. This statement should be taken with a grain of salt, however, as this reviewer has only sampled bits and pieces of Wolverine's discography, but at the same time, "Communication Lost" instills a presence of stronger songwriting and dazzling instrumentation that reaches just a whisker above their other material, at least to my ears. The soothing, chromatic vocals of Stefan Zell lead the spacey voyage of relaxing progressive metal through spheres of melodic, calming atmospheres often reaching ambient territory and the outer plains of progressive rock, yet Wolverine can only be placed in awe at their extravagant sampling of these sounds and the impending result, which frankly leaks excellence from its golden pores.

"Communication Lost" stands as an atypical branch of the progressive metal scheme at certain intervals; rather, the record focuses more so on verse-chorus structures and simplistic features, which is opposite of overtly-technical craftsmanship or altering frontiers. Wolverine plays the stage safely instead, using articulated sections of ethereal keyboards and rudimentary riffs that transfer between soft, ambient-like ideals and the soothing touch of atmospheric progressive metal played at an ultra-calm temperature to create the encompassing texture of "Communication Lost." This approach, although a suggestive turn-off for the occasional purist, leaves the exceptional voice of Stefan Zell to explore vast landscapes of fantastic narration -having the seductive somberness of Roy Khan and tones generally leaning on the lower end of the vocal spectrum - through Wolverine's rock-inspired basin. The songs generally include prominent keyboards as well, and the use of violins or acoustic guitars are fairly common too, so yes, there are many "lighter" anthems, but they are fundamentally stellar nonetheless.

The riffs and advanced guitar work are likewise fairly basic; not technically straining or mathematical in a mystic sense, yet the rhythms are precise and driving, working in an algorithmic function of catchy hooks and emotive solos that weave through Zell's voice and the group's remaining outputs on the instrumental end. Every song has its own center of excellence, but I'm particularly enamored by the trio of eight-minute epics (the title track, "Into the Great Nothing," "In Memory of Me") spread throughout the realms of "Communication Lost," and I can safely say that all three are catchy, emotional, divine, and chalcedonic exploitations of progressive metal at its finest. The upbeat "Pulse" is another gem worth mentioning, and the feathery numbers (especially "What Remains") are pulled off with careful accuracy and avoid the casual tediousness of the average ballad.

As you see, I have nothing remotely negative or critical to say about Wolverine's comprehensive ability and cohesiveness here. It's pretty tame stuff compared to the namable brands of progressive metal, but that's the brilliance of "Communication Lost." This light embrace is not only something that works well for Wolverine, but it's also a blueprint that they easily mastered and expanded with their impressive musicality and dynamic songwriting. The record runs for a mammoth seventy minutes as well, but Wolverine has the essential elements to at least keep the listener enthralled through easeful designs and smoldering epics that reach to the sky, and occasionally beyond, into the great nothing.

This review was written for: www.Thrashpit.com

Communicated in a dream state. - 70%

hells_unicorn, August 1st, 2011

Sweden is pretty well renowned for its progressive metal outfits, though it’s an uncommon occasion that one would garner the attention of an outlet outside of regular Prog. circles, but this is what happened years back with an interest being taken in Wolverine by the famous/infamous (depending on who you are) Kerrang magazine. At first one might think this a sheer accident/coincidence given that said media source is normally associated with mainstream pandering and rock radio favorites. But if their latest offering “Communication Lost” is any indication of a consistent sound since their birth, it’s not totally surprising that such an interest would exist.

While largely conforming to the expected blend of 70s progressive rock and Dream Theater trappings that often define bands in the scene, this is an outfit that is all but equally compatible with the popular alternative/industrial/gothic sound popularized by Lacuna Coil and a few others. The landscapes are largely depressing, the song structures are symmetrical and scarcely wander beyond a typical verse/chorus formula, and the tempo is largely slow to mid-paced while making few occasions for gimmicks and technical tricks. Sometimes hints of this modern style intermingle with a sort of Pink Floyd aesthetic as is the case of “Embrace”, while other songs such as “Pulse” and “In The Quiet Of Dawn” cram in some ambient tendencies in the mold of The New Order or Enigma.

The clearest distinction that this carries from most albums of its type, and also its greatest flaw, is an overriding sense of sameness and safeness. This is an album that sort of coasts along and is pushed forward primarily through atmospherics and a rather well pulled off vocal job courtesy of Stefan Zell, who comes off as a unique middle ground between James LaBrie and Bono. Guitar gymnastics and elaborate keyboard solos are scarcely present, while droning lines and layered textures intermingle in a somber nebula of sound. Things sort of come to a head in the title song “Communication Lost”, where things sound the closest to an orthodox Dream Theater character and things are given a bit more time to develop out of the predictable structural sets that this album carries aplenty.

This isn’t an album that should be outright ignored by those who like their metal more laid back, esoteric and socially relevant, but it is largely content to get the job done and doesn’t break down any new frontiers. Perhaps the best term to describe it is sufficient, filling all of the obligatory aspects of a listenable and catchy album, yet hardly distinguishing itself from a number of similar acts who have taken this format into an even more simple direction. But anyone who wants something roughly along the same lines as “Black Clouds And Silver Linings”, with a small helping of latter day Katatonia, this might make a decent addition to an already established collection.

Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com).