The rise and fall of civilizations is the story of humans on this earth. It is a brutal one of enduring great forces of nature that are indifferent to human suffering and surviving masses of bodies and steel thrown at each other in quests for power. It is a narrative determined by whose stories have been able to stand the test of time, and many have not. But sometimes the sands of time are able to be swept away and from beneath its weight a new story is uncovered, a story that has been forgotten. Wolf People’s “Ruins” is one of those stories.
When you listen to “Ruins,” you feel as if you are listening to an oral reselling of a long lost civilization. Guitarist Jack Sharp’s voice channels the many ghosts of this unknown time and recites their stories in a divine, Gregorian Chant-like tenor. This world is painted in vivid detail by Sharp and his bandmaster Jack Hollick (guitar), Dan Davies (bass) and Tom Watt (drums), who use folk, psychedelia and rock bring to life a primal existence. With murky riffs, punishing drums and a unwavering fortitude, all of it comes together as some kind of black folk. Canterbury Tales as told by Black Sabbath and Unknown Mortal Orchestra.
What Wolf People does so well on ”Ruins” is make you step into these stories and live in this world apart. The band echoes a musky drone of guitars and lumbering drums on “Ninth Night.” The scuzzy solo from Hollick washes over you like the light from a full moon peering through demented branches of a dark forest and you can feel the tension about what lies in the shadows. That terror is later revealed in “Night Witch,” with Sharp embodying the night witch with a delivery as ominous and dark as a spell incantation while the band’s black magic swirls around in psychedelic fervor.
The group hails from the fabled shores of Britain, between London, Bedford and Lancashire. It is the intersection of the industrial and the rural and you can feel how the music is born from the environment. “King Fisher” is an epic built on a foundation of a steadfast guitar riff that could stand for centuries against a harsh world. Yet despite its brusque hook there is an enchanting, floral quality to it, a balance that can be felt on the prickly rhythm of “Thistles.”
The album’s definitive story is on the standout “Belong To Something More.”
“Every part of him belongs to everything/ They are blessed to fall and rest a part of the vast forest floor/ With no future and no past, never wanting anything more,” sings Sharp amidst an earthy, heavy-folk groove. What this person wants, what these mysterious people want, is to exist in the eternal where there is no constraint of time. For time already has passed them by and they have succumbed to the inevitable. The earth has reclaimed its superiority over them and nothing is left but ruins, vines wrapped around temple pillars. But when their story is told they can become of the moment, where time does not exist. They become eternal in each and every reiteration. Maybe Wolf People is trying to exist in the moment as well by retelling this story with “Ruins.” It seems more likely that “Ruins” is the story of Wolf People.