If The Boy Who Died Wolf, the second full length album from Highly Suspect, hasn’t found its way to your preferred listening device, what are you waiting for? The album is full of honest lyrics about real life experiences, including a friend’s death and heartbreak, with music that brings each song alive. Bottom line, it’s what you need in your life right now.
Right out of the gate, Highly Suspect grab your attention with their first single, My Name is Human. With a dirty guitar sound at the start and running throughout the song, the lyrics are what really get your attention. “Gotta remember that nobody is better than anyone else.” However, it’s the simple greeting in the chorus, “Hello, my name is human,” that really strikes a chord. It’s super simple but powerful.
Continuing with fast-paced, crazed and distorted-sounding guitar work, Highly Suspect grab you by the shoulders and shake you up with Look Alive, Stay Alive before giving you a glimpse into the heart and soul of lead singer/guitarist Johnny Stevens. During Little One, Johnny bares his feelings on a sabotaged relationship. The song opens with mellow guitar strumming before his vocals start to paint a picture. “The places I took you, they seem so f—king empty, I have trouble going anywhere at all, Especially my own bedroom, and it stays awake to haunt me.” The vulnerability in his lyrics makes for an engaging interaction for anyone who has gone through the same type of situation.
The album continues with For Billy, which is about the loss of someone close. While it’s an upbeat song, the lyrics capture the spirit of a relationship in a positive light. “It still feels like yesterday, I love you, always.” While everyone grieves in different ways, music can definitely help with the healing process and this song is a great tribute to someone who has passed on.
The midway point of the album gives listeners Serotonia, which was previously released back in February. The best way to describe this song is with one word. Beautiful. The video is both haunting and slightly disturbing. Watch it here. Postres, which starts off with drummer Ryan Meyer, is an upbeat number that begs the listener to bob their head and tap their foot, “Life is incredible, when the sun is in your eyes.” The surprise track would have to be their cover of Real Life’s Send Me An Angel from 1983. However, Highly Suspect slow the song down and make it much darker sounding than the original.
The day after the presidential election, the band took it upon themselves to leak Viper Strike, a politically charged song with bold lyrics that in their own words, is “not for the faint of heart.” Johnny Stevens posted on the band’s Facebook page, “We call upon you to help those who are suffering and protect the rights of our fellow human beings that have worked so hard to get them. We always have and always will fight for equality, in whatever capacity we can. Count your blessings and show no fear.”
While most of the songs on the album follow a familiar sound in the Highly Suspect catalog, the two polar opposites would have to be F.W.Y.T., with its electronic sounding steady dance beats under echo-like vocals, and Chicago, with its personal retelling and outpouring of feelings accompanied only by Johnny on piano. There is something very refreshing about the raw, stripped down sound of his voice and how well it compliments his intense piano playing.
Highly Suspect saved the best for last ending the album with Wolf, a song about Johnny’s real life and how it plays out much like a dream. “I make less and less distinction between what was once only possible when I was asleep, and what’s possible now when I’m awake. It all flows.” [Editor’s note: When Highly Suspect played Double Door in Chicago in February 2016, a snippet of another song was sung prior to Serotonia making it appear as one complete song. Ryan Meyer confirmed in our interview, the band would often play their ideas live before an unsuspecting crowd. Thankfully those lyrics became the beginning of Wolf. “You think you know me, I wish I did too. Because everything’s changing and I am changing too. It’s not a question, this sh-t is real. It’s hard to look back, but it’s harder to move on.”]
There is a slow gradual build up both in the tempo of the music and how Johnny sings but the payoff comes just after the four-minute mark in the form of some of the most intense guitar work on the entire album. Also of note, Tash Neal from The London Souls also contributes to guitar playing on the song. Johnny previously shared via Twitter that it was a “mind blowing experience” that Neal would be in the studio mixing his new album the same day the band were finalizing Wolf. Once you listen to this song, you too will agree it was a great day to have the Rock ‘N’ Roll planets aligned. Add the in sync tandem playing from the Meyers brothers (Rich/bass, Ryan/drums] and you have one of the best songs to be released in 2016.