Review Summary: Post-Hardcore isn't dead yet.
Decoder is setting the bar high for post-hardcore in 2011. Their self-titled debut implements scathing post-hardcore influences from the two bands they formed from, Oceana
and Of Machines
, and fuses these with ambient elements to create a delightful, promising debut.
Now, Decoder is not even close to the first band that plays ambient passages throughout the album, but they do it better than almost everyone else who tries. To begin, the ambient passages dominate the songs. Vocalist Keith Jones screams his lungs out over the top of a beautiful semi-ambient instrumental section in nearly every song, and it WORKS. Where every other post-hardcore band resorts to a breakdown on the first and zeroth frets for the “scream parts,” Decoder switches to a different chord progression and keeps the instrumentals chill and blissful.
One of the highlights of the album is the vocal performance. The two vocalists, Keith Jones and Spencer Pearson play off each other very well. They pour their heart outs on every track, and the raw emotion in his voice is absolutely beautiful. Their best vocal performance is on The Horrid, where Pearson showcases his entire clean range, and Jones, some of his best harsh vocals. However, Jones' screaming is inconsistent at best. It can be a little grating, especially in the first two songs, where his harsh yell sounds far too raw and unproduced. Then again, his vocals steal the show from Pearson in The Light.
Now, this album isn’t perfect. The main problem is the bass. There are few to no bass fills, and the bassist plays the root of the guitar at all times. There’s plenty of times in each track when the guitars are merely playing chords, and the bass could easily do some riffing, but alas, the bassist is one of the most generic bassists in post-hardcore. And, of course, that's when he is audible, and not mixed out.
The bass issues aren't the only problem with Decoder's self-titled. Every single song uses the same tired old verse-chorus-verse pattern that we all know and hate. Also, the ambient guitar riffing is usually just a few measures repeated ad nauseum.
Decoder’s self-titled debut is an album for those who defend post-hardcore to the death, for those wishing to get into the genre, and for those who accept the fate of the scene.