Each new The Republic of Wolves album seems to marginally overshadow the previous. Varuna expanded on the Brand New worshiping His Old Branches EP and their Cartographer EP was even better than Varuna. Enters No Matter How Narrow, here to claim the title of The Republic of Wolves’ masterpiece.
Whereas their previous three releases had been dark, brooding affairs, …Narrow is a bit lighter. This is apparent first even from the album cover – this one is white and gold and blue, while Varuna’s was brown and red and navy. But it’s the music that’s important. The choruses present are catchier than in the past, the guitar riffs are brighter than before, there’s less screaming present on this release. And when screaming is utilized, it’s done in a more sparing fashion, just to accentuate. A perfect example of this is the bridge of “Pioneers,” which finds only ten seconds of screaming for emphasis.
It’d be easy to call “Pioneers” the best track on the album, but then “Keep Clean” begins and you decide that that song is, in fact, the best on the album. On an album like this it’s hard to choose a best track; each one offers you something different. “Stray(s)” makes the best use of the band’s two vocalists, “Spare Key” has some of the best lyrics the band’s ever written, “Greenville, MO” has probably the catchiest chorus on the album, and “Pioneers” has the album’s most intriguing instrumentation. There’s no “The Attic” here, no song is clearly better than all the rest. If anything, “Arithmetic on the Frontier” is the worst song on the album. Not that it’s a particularly bad song, but the gang vocals at the end sound a bit awkward, especially since the song begins acoustic. Luckily, it’s the shortest on the album, so it’s not even a major hiccup.
Really, there are no major hiccups with the album. It’s a good amalgamation of everything The Republic of Wolves has released to this point, raised up a bit. It’s easily their best release, and if they keep up their streak, LP3 will top even this. I can’t wait.