A Scent Like Wolves- Distant Dystopia (Album Review)

Feb. 20, 2024


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In 2025 Lancaster’s A Scent Like Wolves will celebrate their fifteenth anniversary, and while they haven’t been quite as prolific on the release front as some of the other metalcore or post hardcore bands that have reached this milestone it’s clear they have valued quality over quantity.  Like a lot of others that formed around the early 2010’s, A Scent Like Wolves found that sweet spot between the crushing chugs of metalcore and airier melodies of post hardcore, but in recent years they’ve expanded both elements significantly.  2021’s Mystic Auras showcased a group that was focused on melodic layers and soaring atmosphere that pulled influence from other musical genres while still keeping plenty of heavy riffs, and this year’s Distant Dystopia builds upon that foundation further.  With songs that flow seamlessly together and form a cohesive listen rather than a fragmented collection, Distant Dystopia showcases just how much A Scent Like Wolves has grown since their earlier days.

The changes on this album are admittedly a bit subtle compared to the radical transformation that other metalcore or post hardcore artists have gone through, as you can still hear the DNA from albums like Frigid Future or Mystic Auras here.  But from opener “Traveler” it’s clear that A Scent Like Wolves has broadened their scope while staying true to their roots, as things start off with an electronic sounding beat and melodic textures that have more of a progressive or post rock feel.  It doesn’t take long for the heavy to come roaring in, and it’s this type of back and forth between the soaring, brighter melodies and crushing peaks that defines much of Distant Dystopia’s writing.  The sci-fi aesthetic and subtle layers on also give off a different vibe from the band’s past work, and the way that these elements are implemented gives A Scent Like Wolves more of their own identity.  Smaller details like the cinematic intros to “Sunscape” and “Interstellar” stand out just as much as some of the crushing breakdowns and sweeping choruses upon repeat listens, and these types of nuances are what elevates Distant Dystopia above some of the other albums in the genre I’ve heard recently.  The shift between heavy and melodic doesn’t always come across as too predictable either, as sometimes the band goes all-in on shredding and crushing breakdowns while other tracks stick firmly on the softer electronic and melodic side of the spectrum.  Distant Dystopia also has a cohesive flow where the end of one song transitions seamlessly into the next, giving listeners a narrative to follow while still offering individual moments that stand-out.  Admittedly I did find that the first half stood out a bit more than the first, as “Halcyon” and “Escape Hatch” didn’t grab me quite as much as earlier numbers like “Force Field” or “Familiar Beings”.  But things remained consistently solid from beginning to end, and there’s plenty to the instrumentation that has kept me coming back for more.

One element of A Scent Like Wolves’ music that has helped them stand out early on was the dual vocal work.  Brothers Al and Nick Boltz have spent much of their time trading time between harsher screams/growls and airier singing that brings in more of the post hardcore influence.  They’re both still in fine form here, and the back and forth between the singing and screaming remains just as appealing as before.  If you’re new to the band, you’ll discover that there’s a bit more variety than expected to the pitches too.  The harsher side uses screams and growls of all ranges, while the singing has both some alternative/hard rock style singing alongside much softer pitches.  Like Mystic Auras, Distant Dystopia has brought in some guests to contribute some additional flourishes.  This time around Markus Vic from Invent, Animate, ZOMBIESHARK!, and Sailing Before the Wind make appearances and shake things up just a little bit on their respective songs.  While I liked the guest spots on Mystic Auras, I felt like sometimes they overshadowed what the Boltz brothers were doing a bit, and they come across as a bit more balanced on this album.  

A Scent Like Wolves has always had an ear for catchy melodies alongside heavier riffing, but they’ve taken things to another level with their latest effort.  There are more layers and the melodies pull in additional genre influences that weren’t present before, and when you combine that with the sci-fi and cinematic flair that many of these songs have it makes Distant Dystopia leave a lasting impression.  A few of the later tracks might not have grabbed me quite as much as that flawless first half run, but this is still a very strong showing from a band that only seems to get better with each album.  It may not seek to drastically reinvent metalcore or post hardcore, but it doesn’t feel stereotypical either and has some real substance to keep things interesting.  Distant Dystopia is available from Theoria Records.

-Review by Chris Dahlberg