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In the case of Neck of the Woods's upcoming record The Annex of Ire, you very much can judge this one by its cover. Imagine the sound issuing forth from all these snarling lupine maws, imagine the rage that fuels their hunger, and you’ll know exactly what to expect from the Vancouver quintet’s second full-length release. Test the waters with our exclusive premiere of the entire thing below.

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Neck of the Woods grabbed me by the throat with their previous record The Passenger, released on Basick Records in 2017, and it left enough of an impact for me to include it in my year-end wrap-up that year. I’d been jonesing hard for a band with the right blend of progressive chops, metalcore heft, and emotional sincerity that made Misery Signals (touring with Neck of the Woods later this year) and Converge such powerful entities. This band stepped up to confidently carry that torch.

Neck of the Woods have since been hard at work refining their approach, pushing the progressive elements even further while still ensuring that each track bangs and slams as hard as it should. Vocalist Jeff Radomsky is back with his throaty howl, enunciating every syllable while fueling each with barely contained ferocity. And when bassist Ron Holloway slips into the warmth of his upper register, these notes ripple and shimmer with charisma. His solo in the title track, delivered over an acoustic breakdown that both seamlessly stems from and segues into crushing obliteration, is one of the record’s most memorable moments, and his stylistic presence is a considerable portion of the band’s sonic character.

Transitions like this pop up all over The Annex of Ire. Neck of the Woods is a restless band, never content to sit on the same idea for too long; in writing these songs, they’ve struck a balance between these impulses and the control with which they rein themselves in. The band gives their music freedom to explore, and in doing so, they’ve created a record brimming with life and enthusiasm.

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The Annex of Ire releases on March 20th via Pelagic Records (physical media available in North America, Europe, and Australia).

Neck of the Woods. Photo credit: Shimon Karmel

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