Review Summary: Dropping the Misfits inspired Shtick, The Banner have found their identity with this splendid showing of darkened hardcore punk that drowns itself with eerie melodies and dirge like atmosphere.
The Banner is a hardcore punk/ metal outfit hailing from New Jersey. Since their official inception in 1999, the band released two full length albums before calling it quits in 2006. Around the time they broke up I found their last release, Each Breath Haunted and honestly I wasn’t too impressed. The album seemed to be designed for trendy purposes, destined to make big bucks from the same fan base who love AFI, Aiden, and all the other countless Misfits offshoots. Each Breath Haunted seemed to me to be a modern adaptation of the Misfits complete with ridiculous stage names, twisted horror flick based lyrics and aggressive hardcore punk but not quite possessing the heart or direction of the former band. The album lacked any real substance and I was rather disappointed in the album after being an avid Misfits fan for several years so I didn’t care much about their album or their breakup. Some time later I came across their new album Frailty and all I can say is, what happened since then? All I know is, The Banner have gotten darker and heavier, yet more melodic, and possessing real substance throughout the albums 12 tracks. Frailty is the sound of a band coming in their own driven by demons to create something extremely special that will appeal as much to the modern hardcore kid as the seasoned metal fan.
Since their reform, The Banner is a completely different beast and Frailty trumps all of their previous efforts. It seems during their rebirth the band had become more serious about creating crushing music drenched in heart and soul instead of relying on money making schemes to get they‘re name out. Dropping the scene antics and gimmicks, The Banner have released a devastating blast of hardcore while bringing in some unexpected sludge and doom metal influences to merge with the hardcore punk flavorings. One thing completely different about the new Banner and the old Banner is the atmosphere. The production is very dirge like complementing the new experimental edge that The Banner has begun to show with this offering. Frailty opens up innocently enough with a nice acoustic, western sounding introduction “Welcome ***ers” bringing a little humor to the listener. What would happen next completely caught me off guard. The albums first track, The Wolf did not storm out of the gate like I expected to, but instead started out slow and ominous with a massive buildup of slow, syrupy, guitars reminiscent of traditional doom metal. Johnny Southside’s harrowing voice can soon be heard echoing through the back. All hell breaks loose as the furious hardcore spirit of Integrity would pave way through grinding riffs and pounding drums. One aspect that impressed me was the haunting Neurosis inspired melodies that would seep through each track of unrelenting bite. The Father And The Wayward Son, the albums closer and my favorite track from the album fuses power and melody to such a great degree that I can’t but help but press repeat several times.
The performance on Frailty benefits from each member steeping up and doing their part starting with the guitars. Hardcore in general doesn’t really specialize in spotlighting the guitars but the duo of Rich and Buzz swept me off my feet in a blaze of heavy grooves and sweeping melodies. These guys are incredible at what they do, incorporating simple but devastating riffs and the traditional half time breakdowns that not only bring the mosh but are catchy as hell. The guitar tone in particular has a murky, swamp like sound to it that lends the music an organic crunch. The melodies though, most notably shown through the 53 second mark of “The Father And The Wayward Son” and the 1:40 mark of Dusk invoke such feelings of bliss that the atmosphere is suffocating me as I speak. The vocals courtesy of main man Joey Southside are very passionate and angst ridden while singing through the basic hardcore growl/yelling style akin to hardcore. Lyrically, he dropped off the previous themes of famous monsters but in no way, shape or form have they gotten any lighter or positive. All counts of brooding atmosphere and depressing lyrics aside, we at least know the band have a sense of humor stemming from the drummer. Pollution is his name and he plows through his drum kit with speed and dexterity. There is a lot of distortion but the drumming is very thick and productive at holding breakneck rhythms with the guitars. Frailty completes the package with a solid guitar, drum, and vocal performance with tapping bass lines although at times seems a little too low in the mix.
Bass lines aside, The Banner have reinvigorated my interest towards the band with an unexpected dark horse contender for 2008. I didn’t really find many complaints with this album other than the bass and the 34 minute length of the album which is pretty basic for hardcore standards but still. Fortunately several departments in The Banner have stepped up a notch significantly. The songwriting in particular has taken a huge step up on Frailty, producing several top tracks like Dusk, Funerals, and the epic closer, Father And The Wayward Son. The renewed focus and direction from the band has also received a significant boost as they are no longer faceless but instead a separate entity waiting to be heard by many. I urge fans of heavy music in general to give this a spin because this is an excellent showing of hardcore and metal done right.