Seven years is a long time between albums, but that’s how long it took Story of the Year to follow up 2010’s The Constant. Wolves, their sixth full-length album, is out today.
Earnestness was everywhere in the early 2000s. Nearly all of the most popular bands of the rock/punk circuit of the era — those who played to throngs of excited teens at the Vans Warped Tour all summer long — succeeded with heart-on-sleeve lyrics and soaring anthems.
Story of the Year was one of these bands, and their breakout 2003 record Page Avenue put the band on the map thanks to the infectious and earnest (there’s that word again) lead single, “Until the Day I Die.” You may remember the tune.
On Friday, the band’s fifth proper studio album, Wolves, was unleashed, after a successful PledgeMusic campaign over the past handful of months. Put simply, anybody who ever took an interest in Story of the Year’s career will dig something on Wolves. Musically, it’s one of the most intriguing and focused efforts they’ve released to date.
As the tried-and-true screamo/rock sound of the early aughts is more or less a time capsule to a different era, Wolves does boast some new approaches. Lead single “Bang Bang” dabbles in electro flourishes during its pre-chorus, for one.
But all the familiar and engaging elements of Story of the Year’s music are louder, crisper and as polished as ever. Wolves was produced by Aaron Sprinkle (who also helped New Found Glory find a comfortable but challenging balance with their new record Makes Me Sick) and mixed by Tom Lord-Alge and J Hall. Songs like “I Swear I’m Okay” and its huge, hopeful chords charge forth with synth (another new addition to the band’s sound), while vocalist Dan Marsala — who’s always blended a throaty howl with smooth singing voice — sounds as good as he ever has on record.
“Can Anybody Hear Me” boasts epic power chords, more synth, an emphatic refrain from Marsala and tempo changes … and as a result it’s a standout on the record. Think a slightly poppier, less grandiose or self-important 30 Seconds to Mars and you’re on the right track.
Marsala and his band mates — guitarist Ryan Phillips, drummer Josh Wills and bassist Phillip Sneed — sound refreshed and rejuvenated, and the new material reflects that.
“We laugh, we cry, we love, we die,” shouts Marsala throughout “Goodbye, My Love,” another standout thanks to its hook and propulsive, jagged guitar riffs. That’s the thing about Story of the Year — they may have reached MTV-level success with emo/punk songs, but they aren’t afraid to tear into heavy metal-inspired guitar licks. And when they do, as they did with 2005’s In the Wake of Determination, it can work quite well.
Another key track is the powerful closer, “Praying for Rain,” which brings all of the aforementioned strengths together for one cohesive, seven-minute finale that serves as an exclamation mark to the whole record.
The blending of Marsala’s impassioned lyrics with Phillips’ guitar chops and the newly-added synth really helps Wolves stand apart as a strong musical statement from the veteran band — and it’s well worth a listen.
Do so below, via Spotify or Apple Music: