I Am The Avalanche Wolverines on LP
Two years after the long-awaited release of Avalanche United, I Am The Avalanche returns with their third album Wolverines. It is, to use an obvious yet totally appropriate metaphor, a beast of an album, ten songs full of heart, ferocity, relentless passion and, of course, struggle. It wouldn’t be an Avalanche record, after all, without struggle, without the band being somewhat bloodied but very much unbowed. Last time around, it was record label woes that delayed the release of Avalanche United, so much so that the album came out six years after their self-titled debut full-length was released. This time around, the trouble was more physical and personal in nature, one that shot literally right through the spine of the band.
“I was making my solo record,” explains Vinnie Caruana, the band’s singer and one of its founders, “and I injured myself. I went to a specialist – well, first I didn’t go to a specialist and I tried to live with it – but I herniated a disc in my spine. I was walking with one crutch, I was bedridden for three months, my girlfriend would have to tie my shoes for me and help me get out of bed to use the bathroom if that was even possible. So I started writing the Avalanche record in the most excruciating pain that I could ever imagine."
He adds, "My brain was getting fried because the pain was just so agonizing. I finally went to specialist and got an MRI and they told me what was going on. They told me I needed to get surgery and in the meantime I basically had to take painkillers all day every day, just so that I could move. So for about four or five months I was taking painkillers and muscle relaxers and this and that and it was brutal. And then Hurricane Sandy hit and I was laid out and could barely move and my town, I’d look out the window and it was all destroyed."
Only one song on Wolverines, "The Shape I’m In," directly addresses Caruana’s injury – specifically, the stupor caused by all the painkillers – but the pain and frustration of the situation lyrically runs through the entire album. Yet the record, recorded and produced by the band’s own drummer, Brett ‘The Ratt’ Romnes, burns with urgent defiance against those external (and internal) forces. "Where Were You?" is Caruana’s reaction to the devastation that Hurricane Sandy unleashed on his hometown and his guilt about not being able to be there for his family and friends then and during many other occasions over the years when he was away on tour.
"My Lion Heart" is a powerful ode to seizing the day and not giving up, even when the cards are stacked against you, while "Two Runaways," which opens the record with a staggering burst of determination and youthful hope and vigor, is not just a tale about love but one about America, too, a Kerouacian story of hope and defeat that sees its two central characters taking on the wide expanse of country that’s stretched out before them, determined to giving it a shot despite the obstacles that have stood, and still stand, in their way. The famous Beat author also gets a name check on "Young Kerouacs," a song of beautiful, undying love, albeit one set to a tune that’s pumped up, aggressive and anthemic.
Indeed, anthemic is a word that can be used to describe the album as a whole, which vividly reveals the band taking bold steps forward in terms of their sound. Wolverines is certainly the most cohesive and complete Avalanche record to date, something the band are very aware of. That’s not surprising. Their first record was the sound of a band finding themselves in the context of the scene that, through their associations, couldn’t help but define them, even if they didn’t want it to. The second was written across that long, drawn out 6-year period, and the uncertainty of their situation during that time pierces that record’s constructs. There were no such problems with Wolverines. It’s a powerful record through and through, a cohesive, complete set of songs that each play a specific and vital part on the album.
I Am The Avalanche Wolverines Track Listing:
1. Two Runaways
3. The Shape I'm In
4. Young Kerouacs
6. Anna Lee
7. Save Your Name
8. Where Were You?
9. My Lion Heart
10. One Last Time