*Photo credit: Justin James Muir* Having found substantial success with their sophomore album, Page Avenue, St. Louis rockers Story of the Year found their niche in a lot of peoples lives with “Anthem of Our Dying Day,” and Emo Night classic “Until the Day I Day.” Page Avenue was released 14 years ago and the band went on to find sustained success with the release of three more albums before going on a hiatus in 2017. Seven years since their last record was released, I am very happy to announce that, not only is Story of the Year back, but they’re back in a dynamic, loud, and incredibly big way with their new record Wolves. Crowd funded through their PledgeMusic page, and reaching 340% of their goal, the band experienced the freedom in writing and recording that they hadn’t found with former record label Epitaph Records, and as a result, every song on the record shines through. If Dan Marsala (vocals) and company had “rust” from the hiatus going into creating Wolves, there is no trace of it on the final product. This is especially evident on the opening track “How Can We Go On,” which is an explosive opener that mixes SOTY’s post-hardcore roots with a synth-ridden, but very heavy chorus, which immediately pulls in the listener and prepares us for the rest of the record. Immediately following is “Bang Bang,” which was first premiered through Alternative Press, and was the first work by the band to be released since 2010. “Bang Bang” is your quintessential Story of the Year jam. Marsala goes between clean and unclean vocals with ease as the band goes back to their roots with a fantastic mix of breakdowns and radio friendly alternative rock that gives the track that perfect “Story of the Year sound” that many of us have missed for so long. After an interlude, the record kicks back in with “I Swear I’m Okay”, a synth-driven ballad about how life can change drastically in the blink of an eye, and having to put on a brave face while looking directly at what has just changed your life. As with “Bang Bang”, “Miracle” was a previously released song that will bring old school Story of the Year fans back to their prime, while “Can Anybody Hear Me” brings the band back into ballad-mode. A clear standout on the record is “A Part Of Me.” This song could definitely be the band’s next song on rock radio. It’s not as heavy as some cuts on Wolves; it has a prevalent sampled background beat with a prevalent and catchy chorus, but Marsala’s vocal performance on the track is what sets it apart One of the big prizes on SOTY’s PledgeMusic page was the opportunity to have a song named after a fan who paid the corresponding price. The song ended up becoming “The Eternal Fight for Mike Cronin’s Soul (To Be Alive Again), which also happens to be my favorite song on the album. As the song title states, the track is about remembering how something made you feel, and striving to find that feeling again. Not only is the song heavy as hell, but is buoyed by an electronic hook that catapults the following chorus as one of the most memorable moments on Wolves. Wolves finishes with “Like Ghosts” and “Praying for Rain.” The former combines a sound reminiscent of Linkin Park’s with lyrics you could find on a classic Dashboard Confessional track, which surprisingly works incredibly as the penultimate song for this record. The latter is a 7-minute marathon that combines all the treasures that come with a Story of the Year track. Lyrics like “Wide awake, staring at the ceiling as time is counting my days. Like a tidal wave, tearing me to pieces as I pray for rain to carry me away,” is being carried by a melody of riffs that complete the cycle of what the new Story of the Year seems to be going forward. Wolves begins with heavy breathing and the sense of being surrounded by something and not knowing what is coming next. Story of the Year may not have known what was going to come next with Wolves but it’s safe to say that, not only is this effort a late contender for album of the year, but it could be SOTY’s best effort to date. We had to wait seven years for Wolves, but the wait was well worth the time.