Changing singers is a tricky proposition for a band. This is often unsuccessful because it is impossible to bring the exact same energy as the previous front person.
But there are moments where bands get this right and the addition of a new singer opens paths that were previously nonexistent.
Wanderer have pulled off this seemingly insurmountable feat on their debut full-length album, Liberation From a Brutalist Existence.
Originally fronted by Brandon Carrigan, the Minneapolis quartet bridged the gap between grind and metalcore.
Carrigan’s vocals are anguished and gruff, and while he does not lack for talent as a vocalist his approach never felt like the perfect match for the band’s grindcore and D-beat direction.
New vocalist Dan Lee brings a hellish bellow that meshes seamlessly with the band’s punishing riffs and blast beats.
On Liberation From a Brutalist Existence, Wanderer find themselves playing heavier than they ever have before as they expand their sound with elements of death metal and harsh noise.
Album opener “Marionette” displays the group’s newfound brawn and menace as Lee roars over a lurching riff and suffocating drum patterns from Mano Holgin.
“Mind Leash” is a fifty-three second grindcore tone poem without an ounce of fat to its name. “Hellhole” features a beautifully ignorant death metal inspired riff that could easily go on for ten minutes instead of two.
As Wanderer flex their now beefy musculature they are reaching new heights as a band. The way Jack Carlson’s distended bass tone plays off Dan Lee’s vocals is heavy bliss. Carlson’s playing on Liberation From a Brutalist Existence is top notch as he shifts between concise riffing and atmospheric warbling. His bass tone brings much of the heft to the band’s sound allowing guitarist Brent Ericson to play in a manner that is acidic and dissonant.
While Lee’s growls are effective, they are limited in range. The band smartly counteracts this with the inclusion of guest vocals. Sanjeev Mishra and Mollie Piatetsky each provide screamo shrieks that work as wonderful foils to Lee. Original singer Brandon Carrigan appears on the closing track “Contented” to form a doom chorus with Lee while the band plays a funeral dirge from the underworld.
Wanderer are clearly pushing themselves and setting new standards for what their personal excellence can be which ultimately leads to questions of how they can continue to grow.
They could follow in the footsteps of Calgary’s WAKE by writing longer, more complex songs that embrace the death metal aspects of their sound without turning away from their grindcore instincts. Or they could be like Portrayal of Guilt and continue to experiment with their harsh noise leanings in ways that are dynamic and serve the songs.
Whatever direction they choose to go, Wanderer have established themselves as a band to watch.