Review Summary: Picture the hardcore genre as a pack of gum you have been chewing through for over a week. Things started out great, but now the flavor is gone and the pieces are strewn about. Means is just another bland piece in a boring pack, that all tastes the same.
I was unsure of how to being this review. I thought maybe I should begin with something of an indicator about how I felt towards the album about to be reviewed. So I decided to use the word tolerable. Tolerable. A word sadly becoming associated with more and more albums in the post-hardcore and hardcore genres as time goes by. This one, by melodic hardcore four piece ("Means" formerly "Means To an End) follows the band in their desperate efforts to find an identity, and as many hardcore fans have found out, is naught but tolerable.
Every aspect of the CD is nothing more than average, the instrumentation is generic and uninspired, the vocals are abysmal at best (for the most part), listen at a lower volume and you will swear there's no bass, and the rhythm section is nothing you have not heard before. Only the excellent chemistry that seems to emerge on the last 4 tracks saves this one from being a total pile of crap. You'll realize right from the get-go on the opener Awareness
that this is another run of the mill post-hardcore album.
The song starts off with some "passionate" singing from the bands front-man, Aaron Friesen. The clean vocals don't sound that bad, as a matter of fact they actually border on good. However, Aaron's vocal range goes from good clean singing, to anguished yell to a heavy scream, which put simply is awful. The first thought that should, and most likely will pass through your head is, is this guy trying to scream, or is he undergoing some kind of operation un-sedated. The vocals improve however, but not by much. Even at their peak they still sound just like the multitudes of other hardcore vocalists out there. The first six tracks are just plain bad;the vocals are trash, the guitar is generic, there are a few breakdowns which lack any originality.
The first sign of anything positive comes on Somewhere Up Ahead
towards the middle of the song where a heavy clean section with some decent screaming and audible bass sort of woke me up from the barrage of monotonous crap that I was sleeping under. After another solid guitar riff however, the earlier mentioned monotony began once again and continues until the real killer hits. Steadily
a ballad, that lacks any sort of originality or passion is three minutes of pure s***. 0 emotion or effort is put into this song, as is plainly obvious in the first 30 seconds. However, after this ballad the next song We Dwell in Possibility
picks up things a few notches. making things tolerable again.
Fortunately, like a phoenix rising from the ashes of the last two songs, Means really turns things on with Burned into Me
. The music seems to become inspired,passionate and catchy. The vocals finally begin to blend with the song. The high quality continues all the way through the closer Of Dread and Dreams
. The final four tracks show the band displaying undeniable chemistry, conviction, and passion. The lyrics, finally legible, are deep and thoughtful. Theses last tracks are without a doubt the best on the CD, and What We Seek
is the best track on the album.
All told, the CD is a mixed bag of mostly poor, but blended with some very high quality material it is probably worth a pick up for the more serious fans of this stagnant genre. Had I written this review 6 months ago, it would probably be a 3 or maybe even a 3.5, but having heard as much of the wrong kinds of hardcore as I have I stuck with the 2.5, as it did not impress me until the very end. If you closed your eyes and listened you would be able to think of upwards of 5 bands who it might be. Casual fans, you will probably want to skip this one, unless you have the means to download the last 4 tracks separately.
The Clear Best
What We Seek
Burned Into Me
Of Dread and Dreams
The Clear Worst