Review Summary: We Were Skeletons are still skeletons... skeletons of screamo royalty.
"They’re not quite
there yet," is the feeling I keep getting as We Were Skeletons’ latest impresses me more than I expected. I’m quickly reminded of a time centuries ago when artist prodigies would copy the artwork of established painters, copying their pieces, their styles, until the young ‘uns are more refined and have sufficient skill to match their creativity. We Were Skeletons are still in that mimicking stage, it seems. There’s a multitude of positive attributes I could pin down on the self-titled record with ease- a dynamic aesthetic, brilliant transitioning, a few outstanding songs (namely: “Kids”). Skilled and exciting, definitely, but a little too derivative to claim much for themselves, Despite themselves, We Were Skeletons still manage to cement their self-titled as one of the year’s first quality screamo albums.
Full disclosure: my expectations for this were low. Mediocre at best, the Summers EP
was yet another reason to not care about my local music scene, which is well-known virtually only for Christian metalcore-ers August Burns Red (And how high could my expectations really
be for said scene when I live in a county where it’d be uncommon to see more cars than horse ‘n buggies on my afternoon run?). Nevertheless, I was elated by a few signs that We Were Skeletons would break this spell. First, they were signed to Topshelf Records, home to heavyweights like Defeater, Pianos Become the Teeth and My Heart To Joy- reason enough to get a little excited. Adding some snazzy new artwork, along with the fact that 2010 has been seriously lacking in screamo, and the cards were all in place for We Were Skeletons to make a big impression.
Instead, the album elicits some mixed feelings. As they mimic the best of the genre, the band is incredibly derivative of Off Minor, Hot Cross and Kidcrash. It’s tough to pin this as simply a negative aspect to the record, though, as We Were Skeletons show some dexterity in maneuvering around these bands' particular styles without coming across as excruciatingly trite- an accomplishment in itself. Moving to a nice studio with Will Killingsworth (Orchid, Ampere) has done wonders; every transition, every striking note the screams hit, translates beautifully. Aggressive and unrelenting, if there’s one distinctive to We Were Skeletons’ sound, as derivative as it may be at times, it’s the youthful energy. Ranging from 18-20 years old, the band isn’t shy about hiding its’ exuberant take on the genre. Providing the messy, hardcore aesthetic with some authenticity can never go wrong, in my book.
This, the youthful ebullience and sincerity in which their self-titled is approached, is what saves We Were Skeletons. What could have come off as imitative and hackneyed is instead hopeful, and there truly is a few unique moments on the record that give ample proof that Skeletons aren’t simply following footsteps, but have it in them to carve their own path... eventually. Right now, the aggressive, unrelenting, and surprisingly technically proficient We Were Skeletons
is more than enough to impress this new fan. Simply put, if you often find yourself dismayed with monotony in screamo, you may want to stay away from We Were Skeletons
; but at the same time, keep the name fresh in your mind. If Skeletons decide to add a little more of their own style to the mix of things on the next try, I can all but guarantee spectacular results. On the other hand, if your Heat Death of the Universe
is really starting to show some wear and tear from all those plays you’ve put it through, then look no further than We Were Skeletons
to provide some fresh and needed tunes to scream along to while driving a little too fast on these hot summer nights.