Local Listen – Black Wolf Invokes Poetic Justice In Their Debut Album

This is an entry in an ongoing series for 303 Magazine, which will provide a range of local album reviews. It is our intention to highlight the talents of local musicians, whether veterans to the industry or newcomers. Like the bands, the album can be fresh or something we just haven’t had the power to take off repeat in the past few months. Check out previous entries in the series here.

The upcoming debut album of Black Wolf, titled Sovereign Identity, makes a powerful statement on one’s often personal perception of identity and self-liberation. Black Wolf is the stage name of Lee Knight, a local producer, trombonist and self-described “non-binary bull rider.” Combining spoken word poetry — often looped and distorted to the point of obscurity, becoming an instrumental element of the track — with mesmerizing synths and live instruments such as Knight’s masterful skill on the trombone, the album spans across a multitude of creative realms.

Having dedicated over a year to produce this album, Knight’s attention to detail is a prominent focal point, carefully manipulating the emotional energy so that listeners have no choice but to ride the emotional waves up with lofty synths and arpeggiation,  as well as crash down into dark, bass-ey trenches deep in the abyss of self-exploration.

Knight’s lyricism is deeply emotive and powerful in its movement through narrating the journey one might undertake as they go through a personal transformation. “Shed Your Skin,” is a phenomenal exhibition of that narration, describing the act of peeling away the layers of one’s ascribed identity to reach the core of oneself. Punchy kicks punctuate the layers of organ-like synths and delayed trombones, creating a feeling of ethereal otherworldliness.

The vocal effects harken back to the late ’80s and early ’90s style of effects popular in queer club music, while the trombone infuses an almost regal-sounding element to the brooding tunes. The lyrics are half-confessional, half-exasperated, teetering on themes at the depths of emotion.

At times the synths feel lofty and ethereal, while other times it feels as though the listener has been pulled down into the underworld. The sprinkling of acoustic guitar and autotune in “Boom Boom,” imbibe the album with a lighter, pop twist, yet the lyrics still maintain its heavy line of self-reflecting questions. Perhaps Knight incorporated more pop elements in this song to counter the palpable pain felt in the timbre of the vocals, raw and pleading.

Heavy, pulsing, electronic grooves and harmonies with the grunge and beauty of a live trombone have brought Sovereign Identity out of the dark chambers in which they were crafted and into the clouds. Like Hephaestus, Knight forged this album in the fire of emotion and self-reflection, the flames of identity licking the smoldering, rough edges of deconstructed beats and empyrean synths. And how Aphrodite was tethered to Hephaestus, a melancholic beauty is tethered to this album as Knight takes listeners on a deeply transformative journey. Knight’s work echoes the exciting, empowering, utterly distressing and enticingly erotic affairs of our everyday animalistic lives, feeding the beast that lives within.

Black Wolf will celebrate the release of their new album on October 26. The event, titled “Their Haus v.1,” will also feature a performance from local musician Lady Gang, as well as spoken-word poetry and DJ sets from several local DJs. A $25 suggested donation provides all beverages for the evening, support for the artist — and to top it all off, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to Transformative Freedom Fund to help ease the financial burden for those transitioning.