Melbourne heavies Alpha Wolf have been through the wringer. From where I sit, it seemed like their first song release after their brief hiatus would be something of a ‘test’; of loyalty, interest, and if people still wanted to hear from them.
“Black Mamba” released in June and was the first taste of new vocalist Lochie Keogh. Once over this first hurdle – the first impression, the reaction to the music – the live show seemed like it would be the most telling. We were all wondering: ‘Is this still Alpha?’ So the night at Workers Club came with substantial curiosity and maybe a whole lot of pressure upon the five piece and their new configuration.
Despite this, it was high vibes in the venue which has to be one of my favourites for the scene, always feeling like friends getting together to play music and have a good time. Openers Lone were just that; friends of Alpha Wolf that the band were keen to back and share with their fans.
Having released their debut EP God Complex in late 2017, progressive hardcore guys Lone were coming in fairly fresh! Featuring Xave Flynn (vocals), Matthew Butterworth (guitar), Kharem Strohfeldt (guitar), Domenic Colpo (bass), and Matthew Randall (drums), Lone didn’t give away any sense of newness. The punchy hardcore sound with menacing vocals was raw and moshable, and mosh they did. Moreish riffs and grinding bass were a standout in this slick atmosphere of heaviness that the five piece created. Xave took his vocals into the crowd as Lone gave off an easy presence at times, and a hooking building vibe at others. I found myself enjoying their playing with rhythms and pace, even if I prefer more melodic vocals. Fat riffs and screams made this whole set really enjoyable.
I’ve loved all the opportunities recently to get to see The Gloom In The Corner in action, so their presence on the bill was icing on the cake (even if they didn’t play “War”). The fact this was a sold out show and seeing a full crowd get into the band physically and vocally from the word go was so satisfying.
For a change, my attention was frequently pulled away from Mikey Arthur’s gatling gun vocal athleticism and toward Nic Haberle going nuts on the drums (possibly going a little too hard, with the result being his kick drive snapping … the day before their tour). It was also a pleasure to see Martin Wood and Matt Stevens either losing themselves in the music or menacing the crowd with stares. This band go hard at it, and somehow manage to do ripping heaviness and make it feel playful/fun at the same time. It’s a good time.
Though I felt the vocals were sonically buried at times, the deep breakdowns of “Grim Sleeper”, punishing pace of the scratchy creepiness of “Oxymoron”, and barks of the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it “Witch Hunt” were all too good. The entire set was a lot of fun and an excuse to go all out along with the guys of Gloom. BRB, waiting for that unreleased song to come out: two-steppable yet bouncy, deep growls, cleans with a driving sense of push, clear cyclic riffs and nu metal accents, then a homecoming vibe. Yep, I need that song.
I hadn’t seen Gravemind before, despite getting into “Lifelike” which released earlier this year. Their set seemed far more of a production vibe than the two before them, with the band bringing a controlled atmospheric presence to the stage, featuring confident stares out into the crowd and technical guitar.
Blisteringly tight by way of sound and presence, it was a fog-laden strobe city as the Melbourne band shared an equally ethereal and moshable opportunity with an attentive crowd. It was easy to get swept up into it, whether new to the band or a longstanding fan. This connective experience was reinforced by vocalist Dylan Gillies-Parsons sharing openly about vulnerability and facing your struggles, before ripping into the blast beats and roars of “The Deathgate”. Punishing drums, bending riffs and complexity pulled us into something more opening – loved it!
I think I speak for everyone when I say that closing with “Lifelike” was a genius move. The eclectic rhythms and stunning bridge worked as a massive ‘this is your last chance to go for it’ anthem, with impressive spoken word being bounced loudly back toward the stage. It was such a solid set with a very strongly crafted stage presence.
The Alpha Wolf moment of truth was nigh and we were all palpably hyped to the max and assuming positions for peak mosh (or safety). Looking around this full house of people, I wondered if we were all sticky beak curious, or supportively keen to see this band’s return to the scene.
Darkness signified the band’s arrival to the stage before “Ward Of The State” hit us and then Mono favourite “Golden Fate; Water Break” without so much as a breath. It was a hardass open, and kicked off a collective recognition that this band are just as good as ever, that nothing has changed.
With Sabian Lynch’s low slung guitar and stalking stance, Scottie Simpson proving the ‘riff king’ title, John Arnold’s strength of presence, the official welcome of Mitchell Fogarty to drums and Lochie Keogh to vocals was going down a treat and all we then needed to do was get into it.
As the set drove on, with hard hitters “Nailbiter” and “No. 2”, it was a good time as evidenced by crowd collisions and a sweaty mosh, albeit with Lochie clearly being something of a different frontman to what we were used to from Aidan Ellaz. With the smoke machine getting a little overexcited, “Black Mamba” had the band lost in fog temporarily, which gave me a moment to process what I was hearing and the differences so far. I was finding ‘new’ Alpha Wolf to be far stronger than previous, and this prompted a sense of ‘more of this, please!’.
And the band delivered more, pulling out a previously unheard song, which again reflected the band’s newfound sense of strength, bolstered by heavy beats, menacing riffs, and a delicious “That’s the sound of me not giving a fuck” pit call. It was yet another strong track showing that this band are not just ‘tentatively’ back, that they are FULLY back, and are actually hitting a new stride in a whole other way that we probably never saw coming.
With all of us sweating at this point and fully into it, we joined the new and improved Alpha as they proved their capability for doomy heaviness and tight sound with “Failvre”, “Golden Fate; Gut Ache”. Lochie had shared with me before the set he was (understandably) nervous, but there were zero signs of this as he engaged with the crowd and gave advance warnings for breakdowns.
Giving us “#104” as an encore, it was the perfect dessert for this set, which definitely proved how much this band have stepped up in strength. It was an impressive ender for a great night which left me feeling a whole lot of love for this scene.
It’s official: Alpha Wolf are back.
[All photos courtesy of Rowan Donohue]
Catch Alpha Wolf on tour with Thy Art Is Murder this month!