REVIEW: Wolves & Butterflies


Aaron Fink has had quite an illustrious career in music throughout the years — being the lead guitarist for Lifer way back in 2001, then for Breaking Benjamin from 2002-11, then flying solo, releasing four albums from 2015-2018 before reuniting with Lifer in 2020.

So yeah, he’s been at it for a while.

I don’t have any clever metaphors or segues so let’s just get right into it.

Wolves & Butterflies is the fourth solo album by Aaron Fink, released on April 13th, 2018, and boy does it jam!

Now, if you’re a fan of the previously mentioned bands, you’d probably think that Fink’s solo albums are going to be just as heavy, right? Well, you wouldn’t be wrong to expect that, but you’re in for a surprise like I was.

Fink’s style is entirely his own, and is something I’ve dubbed “Modern Classic Rock.” (Yeah, I came up with that myself.)

That sounds oxymoronic for sure, but it’s the only way I can describe it — Fink somehow blends the styles and techniques of modern music with the sound and vibe of classic rock. From the way he sings and writes lyrics, composes the instrumentation, it’s very reminiscent of old style rock.

I don’t know how he does it, but it’s so good.

Fink is definitely a talented and ingenious musician, and his expansive career (and taste) in music shows on this album, as Fink dips into several different genres, from funk, to rock, to even a little bluegrass.

He also experiments a little with a Mandolin and a Sitar on a few of the tracks.

Now, each of his solo albums has a different sound and tone, Heavy Feathers (his sophomore album) for instance, is a little more mellow and sentimental. This album is the “rock-iest” of them all.

Before I get into the album proper, let’s talk about the presentation.

The cover features the man himself, Aaron Fink, sitting on an ornate chair (which looks like a throne), legs crossed and looking to the side. To the side is the artist and album name, written in red and stylized in a very 70s funk font. On the back is the song list.

It’s simple, but it gets the job done.

Okay, the album starts off with “Sweet Tooth” and as soon as everything kicks in, it’s apparent that Fink is just as experienced as you would imagine.

Every instrument knows what its purpose is and how it’s supposed to interact with the others in the song. Nothing is buried in the mix and each instrument just pops out — it’s all very vibrant and atmospheric, something I’ve found Fink to excel at throughout his entire musical tenure.

And yes, you can hear the bass (it plays a more prominent role in the funk inspired songs) so thumbs up.

Once you get to the third song “Golden Days,” you can really see where the other musical influences come in, with “Golden Days” (and the couple songs following it) being more of a soft rock, almost country-like with the more upbeat instruments and story-telling lyrics.

It even takes some influence from gospel music, with the lead-in to the final chorus featuring an organ and the rhythm being clapped along with a vocal harmony being provided by a choir.

“Show me / Show me / Show me the way” indeed.

Point being Fink draws in a lot of different influences on this album and I think it may be his most musically varied.

As Fink stated in an interview:

“One day I’ll be playing a funky riff on the guitar, and I’ll think, ‘Man, I like that riff; let’s see how that goes, another day, I’ll be on the couch with an acoustic guitar, and I’ll play some soft, jangly, singer-songwriter stuff. I kind of go where the wind takes me, and I try to make it fit somewhat with my voice.”

At about the half-way point, we come to the title track “Wolves & Butterflies” which is the best song on the album for a multitude of reasons… great instrumentation, rhythmic bass, awesome lyrics, I could go on. But what stands out the most is the vocal dynamic between Fink and Leah Francisca, who provides some harmonization on a few songs throughout the album.

It’s a good dynamic and I always enjoy it when a male vocalist has a female backing vocalist to provide soprano harmonies — the beauty and the beast dynamic, I’ve heard it be called.

Anyway, this song is probably the most Hard Rock type song on the album and it doesn’t disappoint.

“I am the wolf / You’re the sheep / A butterfly in the breeze.”

Something I’ve neglected to mention is Fink’s vocals.

Before his solo adventures, he focused more on lead guitar as opposed to providing vocals (though he did perform them early on) and if you’ve ever heard him talk, his voice is about as low as some of the drop tunings he’s tuned his guitar to.

But his vocals are butter smooth.

And Fink’s not at all sedentary about singing either, he likes to sing highs, lows, mediums, he doesn’t restrict himself to singing in one type of manner.

After the title track we get to “Melody Lane” which is a very, I don’t want to say somber, but the lyrics discuss various stages and experiences of Fink’s life, from being born “In the spring of ’77,” to touring, to the birth of his son, to now.

I think the chorus sums it up the best: “’Cause that’s the thing with memories / They seem so far away / But they echo so loudly when the familiar calls your name”

As Fink stated in an interview:

“I thought it’d be interesting to try to squeeze 40 years into three-and-a-half minutes and graze over a couple of moments as a songwriting challenge.”

Afterward we come to the instrumental segue “Life Is Just a Dream,” which creates a very melancholic atmosphere.

Combining the melodies laid out by the guitars — an electric (backed by an acoustic), another playing lead that sings with just as much emotion as words could bring, compounded with Fink’s backing “oohs” and “aahs,” it makes for a very somber sound. Especially coming off the heels of “Melody Lane.”

In some ways, it’s like the second part. “Melody Lane” is a celebration of sorts of all the little (and big) things in life, while “Life Is Just a Dream” is the realization of “Woah, where did the past 20 years go?”

It’s enough to make you tear up.

Not that I got sentimental or anything… I’m a man, and I don’t have feelings.

Okay, time to change topics before I send myself into a crisis.

I found the last group of songs enjoyable to listen to. There’s no slumps to be found in this album.

“Wonderlust” brought me back to that poppy, funk feeling, and has such a cool melody that the guitar plays throughout the song — every time I hear it, I have to whip out the air guitar and pantomime it.

The album ends on the creatively titled “Love Bombs” and quite honestly, I don’t care when the album rolls over back to “Sweet Tooth” because then I get to listen to it all again.

Final Rating: A

Wow, I’ve had quite a string of good reviews, I’ll have to find something terrible next time so I don’t lose my edge.

Anyway, I would highly recommend Wolves & Butterflies (along with any other album of Fink’s). I just love everything about it, and this is one of those albums that I can immediately feel the heart and soul that was put into it, and the respect that the album and Fink hold for the medium of music as a whole.

And that’s it! Let’s pretend I said something creative and witty to finish this off.