A Vulture Wake

Thousand Island Records, 2022

REVIEW BY: John Mulhouse


A Vulture Wake has been around for about five years now, largely flying under the radar for reasons that have nothing to do with musical quality. Some of that time overlapped with the end (?) of singer Chad Price’s long-running endeavor, the excellent, self-described “country and Midwestern” band, Drag the River. A Vulture Wake’s first 12”, The Appropriate Level of Outrage, released in 2018, had a somewhat different line-up than this most recent EP, Kingdom. Due to time constraints, original bass player Joe Raposo (RKL/Lagwagon) and drummer Sean Sellers (Good Riddance/Real McKenzies) have bowed out. Bassist Dave Klein (Wretch Like Me, Screeching Weasel, and one of the recent touring reboots of Black Flag) and drummer John Hernandez (Wretch Like Me) have since stepped in. Original member Brandon Landelius (Authority Zero) plays guitar on this EP, with Price adding some guitar, as well. Most of the band is now based in Oklahoma City, and Price has moved from Fort Collins, long the home base of Descendents/ALL operations, for Indiana.


What this change in rhythm section (and possibly songwriters and geography) means is that A Vulture Wake’s sound has shifted from polished modern hardcore (“progressive” is the word the band has used) to something closer to what is probably Chad Price’s best-known band, ALL. The tempo changes, rhythmic shifts, and flat-out, hooky choruses of ALL records like Breaking Things and Pummel are here in abundance. Price’s voice sounds as strong as ever, mostly melodic and pushed to an aggro growl when necessary. And with lyrics that are entirely dark and dystopian, the sense of desperation is palpable. This is not easy music to perform, and the rhythm section stays in lockstep as Landelius’s guitar playing twists and turns.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250


The first track, “Virus,” can be read as either a metaphorical take on society’s current trajectory, or a literal reference to Covid. It may be both. Right off the bat, you can hear a bit of ALL as the frantic verse quickly takes a hard left into an angular pre-chorus and melodic chorus.


“Virus” blends seamlessly into “Red,” which could easily be an ALL song. There are plenty of punchy bass runs, some discordant guitar breaks, lots of snare, and lyrics clearly referencing rising authoritarianism. It’s a great tune, and my favorite of the bunch.


“Choke” quickly crashes into another huge, melodic chorus. In contrast to the soaring music, you won’t find much lift in the lyrics. “Sage” is even a little darker still, and harder.


“Moths” is hard and fast, with Price literally growling some of the words in the middle. “Blood” ends things on another ALL-like note, again proving that Price’s vocals haven’t lost anything since the days when he first joined up with Stevenson, Egerton, and Alvarez in the mid-1990s.

ALL plays only occasional festival shows, and their last release was 20-plus years ago, the other members now occupied with the Descendents’ change to full-time status. So this release is as close in sound to a new ALL record as may be possible in 2022. It’s a treat to hear Price singing in front of a crunchy, punchy full throttle rock band again. But A Vulture Wake does move in other directions frequently enough to begin to establish their own identity. This is great stuff, lyrically smart and appropriate for our troubled times, and rocking enough to get you to work in the morning. And maybe back home again, too.


Currently available only as a limited CD and digital download, a second EP, said to be an answer to this EP’s dystopian themes, is on the way and will be paired with Kingdom and released on vinyl. Since these recordings, Landelius has also moved on, but the band remains committed to moving ahead.  I’m looking forward to what comes next. (And if you’re a serious guitar player and this music sounds good to you, maybe drop ’em a line.)

Rating: A-

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© 2022 John Mulhouse and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Thousand Island Records, and is used for informational purposes only.