I am the Avalanche have one of the coolest stories behind them in the punk world, bar none. Formed after frontman Vinnie Caruana’s first band The Movielife parted ways, the band have been around since 2005, but that existence featured a six-year break between their debut self-titled effort and 2011’s Avalanche United. This felt like a hiatus, with the band playing only a scarce amount of shows and popping up briefly here and there. Propelled by Caruana’s charisma and sterling reputation, however, there was always a clamoring for more, which likely helped Avalanche United see the light of day. With their feet firmly planted in the ground now, the band have halved their between-album window to release Wolverines, their third full-length that finds the band finally coming into their own.
While I am the Avalanche and Avalanche United were defined by the energy and relatability you’d expect from a punk album, both albums had a difficult time drawing listeners through their respective run times. There were certainly great tracks on each, ranging from the self-depricating “A New Disaster” to the raucous, retrospective “Holy F***.” On Wolverines, however, the band has found a way to harness their energy and properly pace it throughout an entire album, taking a huge step forward in nearly every aspect of their band. Opening track “Two Runaways” begins with a riff reminiscent of an old-school Green Day album, as Caruana tells the story of two lovers making their way in America. What follows next is a more fast-paced track “177,” which plays as an homage to an old hangout spot for the band. The intimacy Caruana feels with the place is a risky theme to explore, as it may not connect with unfamiliar fans, but his presentation and passionate vocal delivery help drive the track home wonderfully.
In an effort to combine the accessibility of “Two Runaways” and the energy and aggression of “177,” I am the Avalanche have recorded their best track, which comes to us in the form of “The Shape I’m In.” Featuring the band’s best chorus (by a wide margin) and featuring pummeling guitars provided by Brandon Swanson. Swanson’s guitars are a key improvement on Wolverines, whether the band is moving at blazing speeds, slowing things down (as they do wonderfully on the Edgar Allen Poe-inspired anthem of a lost lover “Anna Lee”), or stealing the spotlight with a spot-on solo like the one on “My Lion Heart.”
Vocally, Caruana continues to utilize the growling, aggressive tone he’s become a cult hero for, but where I am the Avalanche truly succeed is in the instrumentals they construct around Caruana. The band’s loud punk roots are present, but they also take a few risks that bring the songs to a more rock-based feel, to the point where they sound fascinatingly similar to fellow Long Island bands like Bayside or Taking Back Sunday. These risks pay off wonderfully on tracks like album closer “One Last Time,” “Young Kerouacs,” and “Save Your Name.”
Wolverines is truly a leap forward for I am the Avalanche, as each individual member has made noticeable improvements to their craft. While Swanson’s guitar work is steady and noticeably improved, while the drumming from Brett “The Ratt” Romnes accents each track with the right amount of bite throughout. The Ratt’s production, a staple of every Avalanche album, has steadily improved as well, as he gives each instrument the proper attention and care to create an album that is loud without being muttled, chaotic without being incomprehensible, and passionate without sacrificing precision.
It may have taken a while, but it seems that with Wolverines, I am the Avalanche have finally found the sound they’ve been looking for over the last nine years. Thanks to their uncompromising work ethic, attention to detail, and commitment to improvement, they’ve gone from “that band with that one dude from that old band” to a band who has proven their own mettle. After surviving the waves of pop-rock acts like All Time Low and Mayday Parade and new-school pop-punk like Man Overboard and the like, I am the Avalanche have stayed committed to their punk-driven rock, and the result is an album that has few peers, and even fewer challengers or equals. They were always a band that deserved attention, but with Wolverines, I am the Avalanche have turned themselves into a whole new animal.