It’s easier to respect bands bigging up the scale and magnitude of their latest body of work than it frequently is to believe them. At the end of the day, all a band wants from their music is for it to do well, but sometimes extolling that notion just isn’t enough to mask the fact that it really doesn’t have much to offer beyond some standard genre expectations. That’s one of the first thoughts that crops up when seeing some of the hype around Written By Wolves’ Secrets, the newest band looking to be placed at the head of the shiny, melodic post-hardcore scene that, if history of output is anything to go by, has seldom delivered an album that even comes close to living up to the size of the words it throws around. It doesn’t help that the trifecta of band name, album title and artwork seems destined to make this seem as run-of-the-mill as possible, but the walls of cynicism that years of disappointment have thrown up still allow the odd crack of light to come through, and a bit of luck over anything else could see Secrets slipping through as something actually good.
It’s the sort of concession granted when a band sounds so like Hands Like Houses that it barely sounds coincidental at points, but that’s what Written By Wolves seem to be doing, and by virtue of that band being among the best this scene has to offer, Secrets is actually pulled off relatively well. There’s still a hefty rift between the two as far as production and writing quality goes, but when a good chunk of bands like this have looked to scrape by on threadbare qualities with little to back it up, Written By Wolves show that some basic competence can go a long way. And if that sounds backhanded, it kind of is, but at the end of it all, there is actual quality here, and that’s worth taking notice of.
That’s not to say that Written By Wolves are immune from blindly stumbling into the same traps that basically every other band even somewhat similar to them wanders into at one point or another, and despite being able to regain their footing a lot more easily, Secrets falls into them in abundance. It’s the most noticeable lyrically, with Written By Wolves scouring the already-battered scene playbook for whatever platitudes about mental health and rising out of the darkness they can find, and while Michael Murphy is a strong enough vocalist the galvanise them somewhat, it’s not like these aren’t the same circles that have been traced dozens – if not hundreds – of times before with the same lack of impact. Lucky Stars is the sort of relentlessly sappy ballad that would’ve plastered innumerable Tumblr edits had it been released a decade earlier, while some of the lyrical tropes and adages woven into the title track and Be Careful What You Wish For just feel painfully cringeworthy. In all honesty, it’s not like there’s anything tremendously more egregious than the norm (ONE OK ROCK have nothing to worry about when it comes to being the most worthlessly lazy writers in this scene), but the bar is already pretty low, and when Written By Wolves can’t even clear that, it can be difficult to watch.
Some would probably say the same about the production too, and while it’s definitely a far cry from the best results that can be gleaned from this sort of glossy, unashamedly synthetic style thanks to how intrusive it can sometimes be, it’s also easy to make the argument that Written By Wolves leaning into their electronic side rather than merely having it slathered over them yields results that, at the absolute minimum, are more listenable. Demons and Help Me Through The Night certainly shudder under their own relentless volume, but the pounding drums on each really do foster a great sense of propulsive, and dipping into full-on drum’n’bass for The Way Out is an odd pivot to take for just the penultimate track on the album, but it’s certainly unique if nothing else. And sure, there’s definitely a significant lack of modulation across a lot of this album, but the fact that Written With Wolves can ride with it in terms of sheer anthemic bravado is commendable, doubly so when they can do it as consistently as this. Again, Murphy’s vocals are a key factor in accentuating the hugeness of Let It Burn and As Long As It Takes to vault over so many other bands who struggle to pass that threshold, and with a melodic sensibility that further brings out that potency, it’s easy to see how Secrets can run where others can’t. Yes, the parallels in pretty much every one of those factors can be drawn between Written By Wolves and Hands Like Houses, but they do work well, and when it helps them get the leg up overall, it’s hard to complain too much.
Of course, Secrets can’t be held as the be-all and end-all for Written By Wolves; at the minute they’re still prone to hitting the flaws and limitations of their scene with depressing efficiency to be called a great band just yet. This is a good start though, getting a good foundation down which will inevitably need to be built on to hit the heights that they are capable of hitting. The fact they’ve made that clear is already a strong move for them, especially when so few others reach that point, let alone this early on, and with a sound that does have its own affectations unique to them, there’s no reason why a lot more progression couldn’t be made here. Time will tell if they really become ones to watch, but for now, they might be worth at least checking up on every once in a while to see where exactly they’re at.
For fans of: Hands Like Houses, The Word Alive, I The Mighty
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Secrets’ by Written By Wolves is released on 8th November on Tenfold Records.