The Wild is the Canadian folk-rockers' fourth full-length, and the first Rural Alberta Advantage outing for new recruit Robin Hatch, who replaced longtime keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist Amy Cole after the release of the 2014's Mended with Gold. The economical ten-track set doesn't tinker too much with the RAA formula -- melodic and thoughtful indie folk that's both bucolic and visceral -- but it does deliver the goods with enough sound and fury to signify that something combustible is bubbling beneath the surface. Opener "Beacon Hill" sets a blazing pace -- the song chronicles the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfires that prompted the largest fire evacuation in Alberta's history -- with drummer Paul Banwatt sounding punchier than ever, punctuating each of frontman Nils Edenloff's syllables with the might of a carnival strongman knocking the bell off a high striker. That level of intensity doesn't wane on follow-ups "Dead/Alive" and "Brother," the former a blast of pure, unadulterated prairie punk, and the latter a soulful attempt to find serenity in change that's bedazzled with some impressive, Ennio Morricone-esque vocal flourishes. That most cuts eventually work themselves into a frenzy should come as no surprise to listeners who have been charting the group's progress since their fiery 2009 debut, but The Wild feels largely unencumbered by its adherence to stylistic tropes. This is country-folk with a rock & roll heart that specializes in sweat-inducing, stadium-ready anthems for a crowd of 20 of your closest friends. If anything, the aptly named LP feels more alive than anything the band has let loose to date, despite having successfully distilled their sound down to its very essence.
AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger