Music has always been my outlet for any given emotion I have experienced. Angry? Rage it out with heavy metal. Sad? Throw in the blues and let me cry myself a river. Happy? Roll down the car window and give me a pop tune I can belt along to. The beauty of Highly Suspect is the eclectic conglomeration of styles that fit every emotional need. It’s with their sophomore album, The Boy Who Died Wolf, that they combine their best instincts into an album that is both strictly honest and satisfying to the soul.
It’s with enthusiasm that I plug into The Boy Who Died Wolf. I want to lose myself in Highly Suspect’s candor and relation. I want to see their beautifully messed up world that drives the focus of their songs. “My Name is Human” is their first track and their first single released from their new album. Its heavy riff comes in accompanied by a wailing hook and followed closely by Johnny Steven’s unique and seductive tenor. He dives into the straight talk, “I’m feeling the way that I’m feeling myself/fuck everyone else/gotta remember that nobody is better than anyone else, here.” He sets the tone for the rest of the album in three short phrases. The song builds from there, getting louder with each chug of the guitar.
The bubble surrounding my pristine world is quickly demolished by the likes of “Look Alive, Stay Alive.” The intro crashes in like a college frat boy who can’t hold his liquor. Ryan Meyer attacks the snare drum with fervor and is ushered into the party by Johnny Steven’s drunken cadence. I swim through the haze of Johnny’s advice, shutting up and having another drink. I sit up more in my chair to try to look alive, the crashing of the drums and scream of the guitar mimic the euphoric spinning feeling before happily passing out on the couch.
I wake up to “Little One” casting a shadow of regret across my memory. It’s a slow “come to” as the memories flood back. Shifting through everything you did wrong is haunting and Johnny’s crooning reverberates the despondent feeling in an effortless delivery. It slides through the song with crunching guitar and an alternative punk sound throwing back to the 90s.
Highly Suspect doesn’t hold back with “Viper Strike,” a befitting title for the brutal lyrics. It’s “punk” out of the gate and throws shade in the best way. In a smart move done by the band, they released the song early to combat the swarm of hatred that has taken hold of our humanity. “Oh, you’re homophobic, wow, what a bitch/ I almost want to blow your mind/ and just go suck a dick” is the best direct approach line I have ever heard in my life. Highly Suspect sticks up for human kind and they are clever as fuck doing it. While this could be seen as a controversial piece, I think “Viper Strike” is exactly the brave slap in the face people need.
“Chicago” takes a step back from the controversy and slows us down into a soulful meditation. There’s nothing more soothing than the ring of piano keys and a passionate voice humming out a heart wrenching tune. Johnny pulls out his full range and loses himself in his gift, producing the most genuine song on the record, also producing the latest song to face my constant repeat button.
Their longest song on the record, “Wolf” reigns in at nearly seven minutes of pure entertainment. It drives, it hooks, it turns and it free falls into a state of dream-like bliss. Says Johnny of the song,
Wolf is a song about dreams, but it’s also a song about my real life, which reads very much like a dream.”
Needless to say, they nailed it. It starts with a gentle guitar plucking that emulates the start of your REM sleep. That weightless feeling between awake and asleep. It hits hard for a second and Johnny raises his voice into a scream, which drops my stomach and jolts me awake. It lulls back to that sleep cycle and falls into the dream sequence. From there I twist my way through the subconscious thoughts and valuable hope stored in my mental jail. “Wolf” brings forth all the dreams that I once held for my future and lays them at my feet. It tells me not to give up. It tells me my dreams are still possible.
Highly Suspect presents to you their honest truth and their hopes in dreams in a tightly woven album named The Boy Who Died Wolf. Grow with them and pick it up when it comes out on 11/18/2016. Whether it’s the slap in the face you need or the trip through your subconscious that you’re looking for, Highly Suspect won’t fail to give you the musical catharsis you’ve been waiting for this year.