Review Summary: Good ol' emo for the new decade.
Remember nearly a decade ago when the word “emo” actually meant something. Where the immediate first thought that came to your head was not the overproduced MTV pop-punk like Taking Back Sunday, Fall Out Boy, and Senses Fail that is of now. Where your initial thought would be the devastating audio pulverizations of Indian Summer, Jerome’s Dream, Swing Kids, and Joshua Fit for Battle…and such would bring a sense of satisfaction. Emo is short for emotional, the central description for the music and its aspects, usually angry and melancholy. The emotion needs to be carried through the soundwaves to generate a euphonic, albeit downcast instillation of audio assault. This has somehow absurdly transposed into superfluous and superficial meaning (such as eyeliner fashion and melodramatic lyricism) in current modern music. Well there are a few bands currently in existence that are still trying to keep that original sense alive. One of them is The Saddest Landscape with their seven-song EP released in 2005.
I have to address the vocals first because they are going to be a hit or miss for the most part. The lead vocalist maintains a very forced, whiny yell… somewhat in the vein of a slightly deeper Saeita. Sometimes it almost sounds like he’s holding back from breaking down into imminent tears and depression. There tends to be breathy breaks in between some phrases. He also has some speaking sections. In the case of “A Statue of a Girl,” the speaking works well and maintains a steadfast drive. But in other cases, (especially the end of “The Sixth Golden Ticket”) the speaking again seems whiny, more so than any of the yelling. Overall, the vocals can seem somewhat overdramatic, but are nevertheless appropriate for this type of music. I did get a little annoyed at some points but it was never really bothersome.
Since they go hand in hand, the lyricism also begs to be mentioned. The majority of the lyrics deal with the usual emo tripartite of lost, unrequited, and bitter love…but it is done with a little more maturity and elegiac poetry, than you’d think. They are usually decently introspective, but can also be somewhat insipid and sappy…but not too much so. Neither the vocals nor lyrics are really high points of the album…but I’m not saying they’re terrible. In any case, the instrumentation more than makes up for this.
Of course, The Saddest Landscape do not play anything incredibly technical or complicated, with riffs and solos and time signatures that will leave you in awe. The impressiveness lies more in its unity, correlation, and cohesiveness; an amalgam that constructs the incredible power to evoke the depressing, hopeless, and even angry emotions that this music is intended to incite. The passion and energy is easily audible making for more than competent musicianship.
One of the major standouts is “He Died Among Dreams,” in the sense that the buildup created is powerful and emotionally provoking…an objective more or less necessary in such music. The somber notes of the lead guitar accompanied by the rhythm in the background, packaged with the steadfast beat of the drums is by far the best introduction on the album. Everything stays relatively calm and quiet until some powerful chord progressions blast the song into emotional outrage.
Another great track is the finale and longest track on the album, “The Sixth Golden Ticket.” Another good introduction, where the dynamics gradually increase, more so than the aforementioned song. The bass plays a nice simple riff as a guitar smoothly strums chords, everything staying at piano. Then the guitar becomes more dominant and the dynamics rise to about the mezzo-forte level. Then the power chords make its final reprise for the loudest of dynamics cueing in the vocals. A little more than halfway, everything comes way down, and the vocalist screams in a more deeper yell, that reverberates in the empty quiet of this section. A quick one-beat sixteenth note attack by the guitar and snare sends things immediately back into the heaviness. It caught me off guard but in a good way.
This album is no doubt for the fans of older emo classics. But I recall my time machine analogy for my review for Enforsaken’s “The Forever Endeavor”: some music would be exponentially better if it existed in the past, in the appropriate time. This is an album that can fall in that category but with an exception. There is a major lack of such music nowadays, and it is refreshing to hear some attempts at its restoration. To fully appreciate and recognize this type of music, you should probably still stick with the older bands. But if you want something else to listen to, The Saddest Landscape is definitely a competent and overall enjoyable effort.