It feels like just yesterday that I Am the Avalanche released Avalanche United; comparatively speaking, it may as well have been yesterday. The heavy weight of six long years was lifted off the band’s shoulders when they finally unveiled their long-awaited sophomore album on October 11, 2011. The release faced countless setbacks, from troubles with Drive-Thru Records to frontman Vinnie Caruana’s divorce, leading band members to spend those six years working regular jobs and writing and touring sporadically. Many questioned whether the release would ever see the light of day; luckily, I Am the Avalanche has never cared to hide their struggles and tend to wear them on their sleeves as a sign of perseverance. It was a long road for the Brooklyn punk band.
So the release of Wolverines, which comes just two-and-a-half years later, will come as a welcome relief for fans. With a more consistent routine and the uncertainty of their future behind them, the band collectively focused their efforts on creating the most complete and honest work of their careers. On Wolverines, the band follows the path of its predecessor with short, adrenaline-charged punk/hardcore songs empowered by the band’s strong commitment to DIY ethics. Produced by drummer Brett “The Ratt” Romnes and mixed by veteran Will Yip, the album contains the most electrifying, gritty music the band has released to date. Yip’s presence is felt throughout the record, as the songs sound crisper and bolder than anything the band has ever put out.
“Two Runaways” opens the album with a curveball, drawing from late 70’s Americana rock and roll roots in the vein of Tom Petty/Bruce Springsteen. Still, there is no mistaking the raw power of Vinnie’s voice once it blares through the speakers. His signature snarl dominates over crunchy guitars and Brett’s explosive drumming, a formula that prevails throughout the record. Lead single “The Shape I’m In” is a dynamic punk song documenting Vinnie’s physical and emotional distress stemming from a back injury. The extreme anguish is felt as Vinnie howls “Take warning, can’t console/a broken man with a heart of gold/do my best to make it/God knows I can’t take it.” Vinnie addresses his failed marriage in “Anna Lee”, the most gut-wrenching of the album’s ten tracks. The chorus brilliantly captures the feeling of abandonment and confusion at that moment when everything seemed fine; Vinnie starts with cleaner vocals that gradually surge as the music swells behind it before reaching an emotional breaking point.
Amid the worst life has to offer, the band finds time to embrace the good and all the things that keep them going. “177” is a feverish 2-minute tune that commemorates the engagement of two close friends, sporting a noticeably more upbeat pace to matches the song’s happy subject. “Young Kerouacks” draws inspiration from the famed American author by celebrating being alive in the face of adversity while alternating between shouted verses and fist-pumping, anthemic choruses. Vinnie screams “Beautiful vibes/and only good times/just waking up from the darkest times/I’m not coming back/I’ve been dragging myself through/with regards to the worst this life can give”, which feels like a rallying cry to leave the bad behind. This song, and much of Wolverines, showcases some of the brashest vocals Vinnie has ever recorded.
With so much intensity, the album never loses its steam. On “My Lion Heart” Vinnie rejects pain, instead opting for self-empowerment while belting, “I finally found a better way to live/my lion heart has so much more to give/so I’m writing this down ‘cause I can’t live enough/when everyone’s asleep I’m just waking up.” The album closes strong with “One Last Time”, an introspective, self-exploratory song that erupts with powerful guitars and drums and a driving bass line. The song addresses the destructive nature of art, questioning if pain is self-inflicted for the betterment of the music. The hurt is captured bluntly in the line “I start a fire to watch it burn”, a feeling many can relate to.
Wolverines is the product of blood, sweat, and tears, representing a lifetime’s worth of battles. The band is not afraid to air out these moments of hardship knowing that the struggle makes victory all the more satisfying. Wolverines proves to be an appropriate title for the album, capturing the music’s relentless ferocity and vicious bite. Wolverines are known for being a small but deadly animal, and I Am the Avalanche can be seen as wolverines of the punk rock scene; they are still a small band but have a rabidly dedicated fanbase that embolden them and make them as unstoppable as any group in the scene today. Wolverines captures I Am the Avalanche perfectly while using every peak and valley to power their music to places they have not reached in their ten-year run.