I tend to be wary – if not outright sceptical – of rock operas and concept albums. This, ‘the first act of Wolver’s Victorian rock opera, the remarkable travelling show from Sweden’ offers ‘stories whispered by a messenger raven with a sound reminiscent of Royal Blood's debut album, at times also evoking the bouncy riffs of The Black Keys. Certain moments of this theatrical performance might transport you to a steampunk universe’. As such, it’s a concept album delivered in the form of a rock opera, and the prospect of a 16-track pseudo soundtrack doesn’t exactly ignite a flame of enthusiasm here.
‘It Starts With a Bow’ is, as you may reasonably expect, expansive and theatrical, and so whether or not this is a good thing is likely a matter of taste. The narrative tracks are a shade self-conscious and corny, and the trilling organ is cliché vaudeville / stagey ad it’s difficult to really get a handle on the story – but that’s a problem common to musicals in general, I tend to find. Do I need to play closer attention? Maybe.
Still, at its best, ‘Act I’ places the emphasis very much on the ‘rock’ aspect, and there are some bold, driving guitars here
‘Mad Man’ packs a big crunchy riff and is a thumping rock track, held back a shade by some rather flamboyant, theatrical vocals – but we’re nowhere near Queen or Darkness territory, so some slack is warranted. Elsewhere, ‘Newsflash’ goes all-out with the stomping industrial pirate rock that somehow lands near Faith No More, and ‘101’ is so Royal Blood, and stepping back to an objective distance, if you cut the frills and flamboyance, there’s a pretty solid rock album in here.