Growing up in the 90’s, in the world of grunge and Bay Area thrash metal, I quickly developed a lifelong preference for heavy bassline and thunderous drumming. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy all genres of music – from ABBA to ZZ Top to crazy rave a la Felix or Marusha, but if the music hits hard, leaves you breathless and feels like a ten-ton hammer – then you just won me over.
It took less than just few seconds for me to realize that the new single from Sean Grant & The Wolfgang entitled “Montreal” represents everything I truly value in rock music. I have seen them play live at the Castle Hotel in Manchester earlier this year during their tour for Project: Leave The Capital and they were excellent. I was very impressed with them back then but on record, they sound even better.
And “Montreal” sounds like a track recorded over 30 years ago. Don’t treat it as a complaint. On the contrary, this is the biggest compliment a person who lived through that decade can give. Grunge and the 90’s in general are having a bit of renaissance now and every band wants to play like they were born and bred in some god-forsaken burg in the Northwest. Imitation may be the biggest form of flattery but nobody in Seattle ever wanted to be flattered. Imitating the sound is not everything. Grunge, just like punk before it, came with original set of values, crazy ideas, its own dress code and with a genuine need to change the post-Vietnam war status quo in American society. Very few musicians outside of the Washington State zip code ever managed to capture this elusive feeling, even Bush didn’t quite get it right with the “Razorblade Suitcase”, but Sean Grant & The Wolfgang may be on to something.
“Montreal (Watch Me Bending)” could easily trick even an old A&R signed to SubPop about its age. The smooth, crisp production kind of gives everything away, but its spirit, its sound and harmonies are frighteningly accurate. Seattle music was once described as the product of anger, disappointment and cold weather and this is what exactly in my opinion influenced this track. There is a powerful whirlwind of emotions enchanted in the music. 3 minutes and 40 seconds of droning, claustrophobic, desperate and cold genius.
Musically, “Montreal” is somewhere between Layne Staley-era Alice in Chains, “Opiate “era Tool and “Wither Blister Burn & Peel” era Stabbing Westward. It starts heavy, flows slowly but with the brute force of a metal grinder and flattens everything into the ground. The band also kindly included a complimentary sonic kick at 2 minutes and 25 second into the song. If anybody wanted to pick themselves up, after that, it’s a straight K.O.
I mentioned the harmonies – they are eerie, layered, haunting, repetitive. Somewhat distorted and melancholic. The classic school of Staley-Cantrell vocal harmonization, only in this instance, made with just one voice. But it’s enough to create a brooding, desolate atmosphere.
Lyrically, the song sounds more optimistic than the music would suggest. It heralds a new beginning for Sean who managed to find the strength to overcome a darker period in his life and find some hope and meaning to continue. “Montreal” is also inspired by his trip to Canada. If it was indeed released in the early 90’s, I’m dead sure, it would have made into the soundtrack to Due South, next to Moist and Alanis Morrissette.
“Montreal” was written and recorded by Sean himself and then mastered by Nick Fisher. It is the first single released from The Wolfgang’s upcoming album entitled “333” (yet another Seattle reference but I’m sure the band is completely oblivious about it). The song comes out this Friday, 9th of April on Vandalism Begins @ Home. Video premiere is set for 22nd of April.
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