The Collab Project: How do the Collaborations Help or Hinder Written by Wolves?

Written by Wolves is a rock quintet from all the way in Auckland. Having an EP and their 2019 album ‘Secrets’ to their name, they are becoming one of New Zealand’s premier rock acts pretty quickly. The band sent us over their latest EP, ‘The Collab Project’, and it sounds so awesome that we couldn’t not review it! This is that review!

Oh, and just in case you couldn’t tell, this EP features songs with people in other bands and projects, hence the ‘collab’ title. Just wanted to say it now so I didn’t keep repeating myself later on!

‘Better Luck Next Time’ features Trenton Woodley of Hands Like Houses. It opens on an almost gospel choir-like build and swell of vocals and harmonies, it all sounding awesome. It just adds even more to the HEAVY riff that comes in a few seconds later, blasting it all away quickly. It drops down a little into a pretty great riff as the vocals come in, powerful and pop-punky, adding a lot to the already great sound. The chorus is massive and open, sounding both heavy and catchy at the same time, the perfect mix. More awesome harmonies ring through it too, always a highlight of any song they are in for me. The chorus is growing on me more and more with each listen, it is damn catchy. It drops down low for a second after the second chorus before the choir intro is brought back but this time over the top of huge drums and distorted guitar chords, sounding even better. I think I’ve finally worked out what it reminds me of: if Panic! At the Disco did a metal song. And I am all down, that was awesome! Couldn’t quite tell where Trenton was, but I don’t mind, it sounded awesome. Playlisted!

‘Secrets’ features the always awesome P.O.D vocalist, Sonny Sandoval. It sounds a little more hip-hop inspired than the previous song, not surprising given Sonny’s involvement. It still has a slight gospel feel, with the stop and clap formula this time instead of the vocals, but it adds a nice dynamic behind the vocals. Some lighter, vocals come in for what I understand is the steady, quiet voice, the pre building pretty well into a rather disappointingly stripped-back chorus. The riff is good, but pretty far back in the mix and doesn’t feel anywhere near as heavy as that build-up felt like it warranted. It reminds me a lot of Papa Roach’s latest single, a good riff wasted by it not getting heavy enough. I have to say though, they make up for it with a HUGE second chorus, heavy and loud and perfect, almost like they knew what they were doing or something… it was really good! The harsher vocals fit the change of tone perfectly and had me banging my head and scrunching my face up. It, unfortunately, teases a build for the final chorus but never quite pays off. Even still though, it’s one hell of a song!

‘Our Stories’ is a really interesting piece of work; over 11 minutes of people telling stories about their experiences over the phone. I honestly don’t know what to say about it other than calling it incredibly emotional. I don’t feel comfortable saying much more about this or giving it much analysis, but it’s an incredible eye-opener and a fantastic opener to the following track if you think you can handle it.

‘Lucky Stars’ is made so much more emotional by the previous track; a slow opener with a similar ethereal background sound behind some profound lyrics sounds great. ‘You shouldn’t need a song to save your life, the world should care enough for you to feel like you belong’ is a fantastic sentiment. The male and female vocals (from Sydney Rae White) contrast beautifully with each other, both giving off their own sound and emotion, even when harmonising with each other. This was a fantastically beautiful track and a real highlight of the album.

To finish the tale of the middle songs of the EP, ‘Hope’ is a track similar to ‘Our Stories’. However, it is from people who have come out the other side of their tough times and are recovering. It completes the story of the three tracks so perfectly and flows with just as much emotion as the previous two, even more so as it draws the narratives to a close. It’s one of the most fantastic things I’ve heard from a modern band, and it added to the beauty of it all. Even if you feel you cannot stomach the first track, tough it out and listen to this nearly 25-minute epic in its entirety. It will make you cry and you will not regret it.

As if fitting in with the emotion of the journey I have just been on, ‘Help me Through the Night’ not only fits the emotion and feel of the previous stuff perfectly but also feels like the Shinedown-esque ballad of the EP. The lyrics fit perfectly and sound awesome over the top of the more electronic-based instrumentation than the straight-up rock stuff from the opening two tracks. The chorus is the biggest and catchiest on the album too, utterly fantastic and one of my favourite choruses I’ve heard recently. Kellin Quinn’s vocals work well through the second verse (especially since they had a woman guest vocal on the last one…) adding a good dynamic again. We get a cool bridge out of the second chorus before it drops down into a stripped-back chorus, building up perfectly into a huge final one, harmonies between the two vocalists and all! Easily playlisted, an awesome song!

And with that, we reach the final track on the EP, ‘Forever Always’. It opens on some choir-style vocals again before dropping out into just the lead vocal, sounding beautiful over the simple piano. It again builds slowly and perfectly; however, they tease it a little longer, having an equally quiet first chorus. The second vocals come in for the second verse, again the harmonies between the two sounding fantastic during the second half in the build-up. We STILL get a lower chorus though, unfortunately. We finally get the huge chorus for the final one after a very quiet bridge, and it was exactly what I was waiting for. Huge guitar chords and drums behind the two duelling vocals gives such an epic feel to it all, it’s really great. It’s a long chorus before a quiet outro takes us home, but it all worked so well together. A fantastic way to close out a fantastic EP.

Overall: I went into this band completely blind and I was not at all disappointed, this was amazing from start to finish. They captured so much emotion from the third track onwards that carried through perfectly to the end and is honestly one of the most profound pieces of music I’ve heard in a while. I’ll definitely be listening to it again, and I urge any of you to too, whether you are a fan of the genre or not!

Score: 9/10

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