Review Summary: A solid album by a solid band that will occasionally turn your head. It's definitely worth checking out simply for those outstanding moments.
From the frantic palm mutes and Norma Jean-esque dissonant chords that kick off album opener "Blue Morning," it's easy to tell that Greeley Estates are doing the sort of thing that frankly we've all heard other bands do before. However, while it's easy to pass off this release as just another generic offering of the post-hardcore/pop-punk/whatevercore scene, to do so would be to pass up some rather brilliant moments this record has to offer.
First off, "Blue Morning" is a great example of a song's composition following its lyrical content. The song is told from the perspective of someone succumbing to a zombie bite (yes, the premise is ridiculous, but we have to take these things for what they are) and warning his loved ones to either quarantine him or run and hide. The tone switches from denial, as vocalist Ryan Zimmerman Wails "I'm not a monster/I'm just a sick man" to acceptance, as he chants "I feel it in my blood now/It's turning me" over a single melancholy palm muted guitar. The song ends with Zimmerman shrieking "You better lock the doors and hide" as the pounding drums and guitars gradually slow to a near standstill, presumably representing the narrator's fading heartbeat. It's a powerful effect that Greeley Estates utilize to its fullest in this track.
Another particularly memorable section happens towards the end of "Go West Young Man", where the chorus sinks into a shining example of Zimmerman's distinctive scream, out of which rises a lumbering slow section driven by a rock-flavored pentatonic guitar riff. The second time through, Zimmerman's vocals are supported by a subtle major key choral harmony, which then suddenly takes over the lead, punctuated by short, bombastic guitar chords. This creates a very stark contrast to the bleak feel of the song without feeling misplaced. It's a compositional choice that really drives home the fact that post-hardcore doesn't always have to use the same hackneyed devices.
Another standout section is in "If We're Going Out Let's Go Out In Style," where the prechorus's ethereal-sounding singing over heavily strummed power chords segues seamlessly into the chorus, where Zimmerman overdubs a nursery rhyme-like melody with some of his most wrenching screams. This sort of juxtaposition highlights something that Greeley Estates do very well: Take things that simply shouldn't work in this sort of music and then make them work anyway. This specialty is also apparent in the syncopated, almost latin-tinged delivery of the clean vocals Blue Morning.
It's also worth noting that Greeley Estates's rhythm section does some seriously catchy work, such as in the bouyant drop D chugging of "Desperate Times Call For Desperate Housewives." Although he can sound a little bit loose at times, drummer Brian Champ clearly has control of his kit, particularly the double kick. While a skilled drummer is par for the course in this genre, Champ's drumming takes some unexpected turns, such as the chorus of "Go West Young Man," where his start-stop drumming has a determined yet tentative quality that parallels the sense of coming-of-age uncertainty that characterizes that track.
There's plenty of bad along with the good. As evocative as Zimmerman's screams are, they can become tiresome over the course of the whole album. The album gets repetetive fast, and the glimpses of brilliance that were so common at the beginning seem to become less prevalent as a string of several same-y tracks chug by in the album's middle. None are outstandingly bad, but neither are they particularly exciting. A notable exception is "Let The Evil Go East" which combines a frantic pace with spastic major-minor key changes to create a song that's aggressive, catchy, and leaves you with the musical equivalent of whiplash.
The following track, "I Have To Warn You, This Won't Be Easy" also has an interesting moment where it slows down and the vocals take on a subdued tone before an agile twisting guitar lead takes over and slowly brings the song back up to speed while drawing out the section's muted feel. Unfortunately, the song ends with a somewhat uninspired breakdown type of thing. Penultimate track "Keep The Heat On The Dash" is also rather interesting in that it seems torn between trying to be anthemic and trying to be melancholy, as a musical tug-of-war ensues between the opening riff and chants, and the subsequent dissonant guitar harmonies. The whole personality struggle ends up leading the song into a cool section that has Zimmerman's delay-soaked voice ooing and ahhing over guitar harmonics, leading into a pseudo-breakdown and another cascade of cleverly layered vocals.
Closer "You're Just Somebody I Used To Know" wraps up the album, a fast, fun, simple song, the first half of which I'm fairly sure I heard on Blessthefall's "His Last Walk." It's a solid track, though, which leaves the listener feeling as if the album was more satisfying than it actually was.
In short, "Go West Young Man, Let The Evil Go East" is a solid album by a solid band that will occasionally turn your head. It's definitely worth checking out simply for those outstanding moments.