Review Summary: Kinda grind, kinda emo, but not really either...
Over the past few years, and due largely in part to bands like Senses Fail, Alesana, A Skylit Drive, and so on, the terms "screamo" and "emo" have come to define genres that they really should not even be associated with, and because of this, most listener's forays into the genre stop as soon as they get to the aforementioned bands, long before they reach the likes of Orchid, pg.99, Saetia, and company. Foolish as it may be to completely write off an entire genre just because of the few "mainstream" bands that unwittingly slap the words across the top of their MySpace page, its just as bad, if not worse, to simply stop exploring once you've reached the so called originators of the genre. Thanks to bands like Orchid, pg. 99, Saetia, and Circle Takes The Square, a large portion of the genre is simply overlooked by those who think that there is simply no way the genre could possibly offer up anything else of equal quality. A Days Refrain and Neil Perry are two of those bands that have simply been overlooked by the majority of listeners, and its really a shame they were.
There are a few things that make this split rather interesting, one of course being the length, or lack there of. The total run-time of the split comes in at around 13 minutes, with each band contributing a little bit more than 6 minutes apiece. Now while that may seem like an obscenely short amount of time, both bands do a splendid job of making every single second count (think of it as quality over quantity). Another interesting aspect of the split are the sounds of the bands themselves, as both bands have a quite a bit in common, yet manage to sound very different and distinct. Also, both sides of the split play out in much the same fashion. Both sides start off with a minute long song that's about as abrasive as sandpaper underwear, before going through a sort of music evolution (or devolution depending on how you see the transition from chaos to melody), and then exploding into a climax. Even though both bands have their roots in early emo, as well as combining both grind and melodic aesthetics, both bands manage to set themselves apart from the other. A Days Refrain does so by focusing more on the abrasive aspects of grind, while Neil Perry focuses more on the melodic aspect of their sound and maintains a stronger sense of composition.
The production on both sides is roughly the same. The guitars have a very sharp tone to them, the bass is surprisingly high in the mix, the vocals are fairly rough (but in a pleasant kind of way), and the drums are very clear and distinct without becoming overbearing. The vocalists of both bands possess a rather high pitched shriek, and in a surprising twist, both vocalists do a fair amount of clean vocal work, with Neil Perry's vocalist using a rather soft and more melodic delivery, while ADR's vocalist uses a louder and much more harsh delivery, sort of like something you would find on an early punk record. With the exception of the drumming, both band's instrumental aspects are more or less the same, as both bands use their instruments to create moods and atmospheres rather than focusing on the technical aspects of instrumentation. The guitarists provide thick walls of sound, frantic dissonant passages, pseudo-breakdown and grind sections, and melodic clean passages, while the bass plods along in the background and even takes the forefront when it's called for. The drumming is where the main differences lie, and it affects the overall sound a lot more than you would think. ADR's drummer stays very on point and rarely uses many fills or quick double bass work (which is odd considering that ADR is the "spazzier" of the two), while Neil Perry's drummer manages to keep a very solid rhythm while absolutely pounding the kit with a plethora of fills and oddly timed double bass passages (which is, again, odd considering that Neil Perry is more focused on tighter composition).
To put it simply, this split EP is really a "diamond in the rough" so to speak. While it might not be as well known as Pg. 99's Document #8 or Hot Cross' Cryonics, it still serves as a great example of early emo/screamo. Though it's only around 13 minutes in length, both bands do a great job of making you feel every minute, and both bands do a great job at filling in the gaps in the others' sound. So if you're already a fan of any of the previously mentioned bands, or if you're looking for a good place to start getting into the genre, I highly recommend you look into this split.
Well it's only 13 minutes long, so all of them...