Review Summary: Slowed down Hardcore that makes ya feel Good!
I was scanning the shelves at my local record store one day, I had ten bucks burning a hole in my pocket, and the store was out of the album I originally came in for. I am, however, utterly incapable of leaving a record store empty handed. When faced with this situation I usually take a chance on a band/cd that I haven't heard of before. Nine times out of ten, I end up with a disc worthy of target practice, or to be used as a shiny coaster. The CD I settled on was white, with black "old English writing", with a coat of arms in the center, but the thing that my eyes were fixated upon was the "for fans of:" sticker that most up and coming bands cd come adorned with. It listed Bury Your Dead and Shai Hulud in the same breath, well this I gotta hear. So instead of ten dollars, I now instead had a copy of It Prevails'
debut, The Inspiration
Even as I write this, I am having trouble figuring out how describe the sound of this band, even though they're not off the wall or complicated in the least. To put it into one phrase without namedropping, I would have to say, "Easy Listening for Hardcore fans". Every song on this disc has a very positive vibe to it, and a lot of atmosphere. Some songs like “Explanation Content” with its ascending riffs and melodies just reminded me of the sun shining through the window, others such as "The Distance" could easily fit into a movie soundtrack as the victory scene of an epic battle. This band is also not afraid to slow things down. They don’t beat their point into your face at two hundred beats per minute, more often preferring a mid to a slow pace… for hardcore anyway. In fact at first listen, this cd, to hardcore kids is going to feel like it’s in slow motion 90% of the time. Some songs, if you took out the intense, screaming vocals, wouldn't even sound like hardcore. With that said, hardcore is more about passion, conviction, and heart than it ever has been about "fitting in with what everyone else is doing". So make no mistake, you have a hardcore band on your hands, even though you may not think so at first.
Within the first few bars of the first song, the Shai Hulud comparison is merited. There are beefy power chords followed by nicely plucked melodies and single note runs that utilize a little delay and some chorus effects that lets them to shimmer over the main riff and the steady backbeat of the drums. The vocals will immediately remind you of Shai Hulud in, tone, sound, delivery and patterns. “So aren't these guys just ripping off Shai Hulud?” you say? Well, no. Even though the influence is painfully obvious, these guys have taken the idea and done something a little different. The big difference is that It Prevails
write songs that are not as "techie" as S.H. and have song structures that are much easier to latch on, and groove to. This group likes set the foundations of their song structures typically in two or three chords, with melodic licks between them. They also have full blown breakdowns, breakdowns with a lot of melodic guitar lines layered in, but real breakdowns none the less. Also it’s worth noting that the lyrics are very positive, as opposed to the very smart and angry poetry of Shai Hulud, and the topics are usually along the lines of triumphing over adversity. There weren’t any lines that struck me as overused or possibly ripped off, even though we’ve heard the subject matter covered before.
The Bury Your Dead "influence" that is suggested by the sticker on the cd case, is mostly to be found in the guitar tone and some of the breakdowns. The guitars are down tuned either to drop C or possibly B, and when their not using the effects, I could see a little BYD in there. The one other comparison could be found in just a few vocal tones and patterns.
By now you're starting to get a sense of what this band sounds like, you've got the drop tuned guitars, you know that there’s a few breakdowns to be found, you know that their vocalist sounds similar to Shai Hulud, Misery Signals etc... And you also know that they’re big on melody. Some of their songs, like "Change Today", have riffs that at times reminded me of the better sides of emo, but without the insufferable wussy singing.
So Far the album has a lot going for it, but it only got a “3.5” rating for a reason. If the band can work on a few things it can make the leap from "great" to "Excellant" or "Superb." One of the draw backs for me was that the songs start to get a little predictable; you can figure what the band will do next by the end of the third or fourth track.
The predictability was also apparent in the breakdowns. The vast majority start out with the typical open sometimes stuttered chugging, followed by a melodic phrase on the guitar, or and octave chord progression that brought to mind a few As I Lay Dying riffs. While this isn’t often done by other bands, it still gets a little boring, and if it were me, I’d up the aggression on a few just to change things up a bit. While I was listening to this I was thinking if these mosh parts, while interesting, would inspire me to do some kung fu in crowded room, and alas, most of them would not.
Another issue that I have with the album is that out of ten songs, there are two that are instrumental, track 6, "To Fail" which is pretty much some distant screaming over a drum machine, is total filler, and a waste of time, the only good thing about it is that it’s only like 45 seconds long. The second instrumental, track 8,"Man.Moment.Machine." is more worth listening to, and actually does fit into the bands overall scheme, since this band does put a lot of emphasis on mood and atmosphere. With that said though, to me only eight actual full songs on a major debut is weak.
The Speed bogged the album down for me at times, I kept thinking of a young Ricky Bobby sitting strapped in his car seat saying "I wanna go Fast!". This is however a personal preference point, and may not bother other listeners in the least. In fact, one of the better songs on the album, "Thirst For A Better End" stays right in a slow groove that alternates between slowly strummed chords and a good ol' chugga chugga breakdown riff.
The Vocals on this album for me are a conundrum, on one hand; I really think they’re great, strong, imposing vocals for most any hardcore band. They aren’t terribly unique, but they still are solid and I can’t find any flaws with them by themselves. On the other hand, this is a band that is so melody driven that at times intense vocals don’t seem to fit. Trust me 99 times out of a hundred my issue with bands is that they are forcing too much singing, but with these guys I think if they could have some Pete Kowalski, or Jesse Leach, epic singing sprinkled in it would do wonders for them. There is some singing on track 9, "At Least Understand" that comes in two thirds of the way through the song. It reminded me of the Deftones or Crownvict, but it was used as more of an interlude than an actual cornerstone of the song. It did lack a hook to sink your teeth into, but was otherwise well performed.
Overall The Inspiration
was an enjoyable, fun listen. It has its own identity and achieves a very different feel than most albums coming out today. The reason it doesn’t rate higher, aside from the aforementioned grievances, is that it just doesn’t blow me away. It doesn’t have the hooks that will stick in your mind like gum on your shoe for days. It also doesn’t have the technicality of some of their influences that make you rewind a million times because you’re dumfounded as to how they pulled off a riff or a drum fill, or a whole measure. What they do have is a hardcore disc that will actually make you feel something besides, “ooooh I wanna kick that guy right after I spit on that baby” but rather more of a “maybe the worlds not so bad” vibe that will always be refreshing to hear from heavy bands.