Lost Walks’ debut album, Wolf, Woman, Man, tells the story of a lone injured wolf, separated from his pack. The band eschewed the clichéd image of a scary, child-eating monster and opted to instead portray the apex predator in a heroic light.
Now the band, which has toured Colorado to support successful wolf reintroduction efforts, is releasing a prequel of sorts in its sophomore effort, Blood Lantern. They hope to make the saga of the lone wolf a trilogy, each with its own sonic character.
“We are doing this like the Star Wars method of starting at the end and going backwards,” says guitarist, composer and former Westword writer Andy Thomas. “The plan is to have the next album be the one before Blood Lantern.”
Thomas says the latest record tells the story of how the wolf character in Wolf, Woman, Man was separated from his fellow wolves and injured.
“It starts with the wolves kind of waking up and going out to hunt,” he says. “Jen [GaNun’s] character, the alpha wolf, is kind of motivating the pack to go out and be proud.”
The soon-to-be lone wolf is enamored with the alpha wolf, and Thomas says that’s a theme that carries over from the first record — the lone wolf’s quest for companionship. When the pack goes off to hunt, it encounters a hermit, also lovelorn, living in the woods. The hermit is, justifiably or otherwise, terrified of the wolves and does something drastic to protect himself.
“He thinks that building a wall of fire is the best way to keep these wolves away,” Thomas says. “That ends up torching an entire forest and killing all these wolves. The only wolf that survives is (the lone wolf). That’s how he is detached from his pack and goes off alone.”
Blood Lantern contains a musical Easter egg of sorts at the end that clues listeners into the next part of the story, Wolf, Woman, Man. The forthcoming online release of Blood Lantern will also include information to help listeners understand the narrative and some of the scientific facts about wolves hidden in some of the lyrics.
“When you write rock opera — and I remember Pete Townsend talking about this with Tommy — there’s only so much you can infer to a listener,” Thomas says. "You have this narrative in your head, so you do the best you can through kind of your more pared-down lyrics to try to inform this action. I’m always curious what listeners can suss out on their own.”
He adds that people usually realize that a narrative is happening across both albums, but some of the details need to be explained outside of just listening to the songs. The spoken-word pieces on the record that alternate with sung vocals are a further attempt to explain the characters. Lost Walks has gotten help from wolf advocates to make the lyrics accurately reflect the animal.
“They are there to cohesively bring the songs together and establish the characters,” he says.
Lost Walks opted for a darker, heavier electric approach on the new album than on its predecessor, which had a more acoustic, folk-leaning sound. On Blood Lantern, the lineup is more of a traditional rock-band format — guitars, bass and drums. The group might strip everything down for the third album.
“We do want, musically, for them to be all very different,” Thomas says “It would be easy to write the same groovy, moody riffs, but we wanted to make sure they are kind of changing and remaining interesting.”
The guitar work includes dissonant, overdriven guitars that evoke Neil Young’s grungy, minimalist score in the Jim Jarmusch acid Western Dead Man.
“I’m definitely not the most skilled guitar player,” Thomas says. “But because of that, I definitely try to come up with weird chords — I’m very mood-driven, because I don’t have the technical background. I write what fits the story.”
The COVID pandemic made recording the songs on Blood Lantern a challenge, because members went into the studio alone and recorded each part separately. The atypical process had the odd effect of making the band as a whole not really know its own songs that well, at least in a band setting. But the band does plan to play a live show in January.
“We’ve got some new members, too,” Thomas says. “It’s going to take some time to get everyone up to speed and really learn this record.”
The record will be released over the course of four months at Blood Lantern. The first section is available now.