Review Summary: Crash of Rhinos take all the implications of their band name and jam them together, crafting an exhilarating release that could very well be the emo album of the year.
A “WOOO YEAH!
” begins Derby newcomers Crash of Rhinos’ debut as the drummer hastily tries to get things going, only to stop and let the band start over with a “F*CKING HELL!
”, coming back even harder and with greater intensity. Forced spontaneity or genuine awesomeness? The skeptical side of me begs to say it’s the former, but listening to the sheer euphoria and recklessness of the opener quickly shifts me to the latter description.
Despite taking most of their cues from emotional hardcore, these kids aren’t set on being depressed; this is rowdy, fist-raising material, at once both urgent and uplifting. The most obvious link is Cap‘n Jazz and their brand of youthful emo, but they stretch their songs beyond the brief, energetic punches of the aforementioned legends and make them into structured epics infused with dynamic chords, ornate drumming and gang vocal releases. There is always a palpable energy that drives the tracks forward, and even when they exceed the 6-minute mark this momentum isn’t lost, making the inevitable cymbal crashes all the more powerful. They also know just the right time to drop into gorgeous American Football style interludes; you’d think they were pros in the scene with such masterful songwriting. For all their ambition though, they never lose the image of a bunch of kids messing around in a garage, creating sporadic, spirited music that acts as a call to arms for feeling good.
It's this youthfulness and honesty that pushes Distal
past being “just another emo album” to something altogether more extraordinary, something vital. It isn’t through the lyrics though; they cover the right themes, singing about fu
cking up and heartbreak, but the greatest feeling they get across is, well, the feeling of being in a band. There is an almost cheeky sense of self-awareness at how good it feels to scream it all out, to push that guitar arpeggio to its limit, to drop that thunderous drum fill that will make the kids in the pit go wild. Too many emo acts aim to heal the listener through an act of transference – the vocalist’s passionate release intending to bring about some form of catharsis for the listener. These guys know how to play that game but they go for an even greater rush: escapism. Listening to Crash of Rhinos is like being administered Rock Band in aural form, such is the elation they capture in their adrenaline-rushing sound. This feeling is so powerful that it overrides all the fu
ck ups and all the heartbreak, making Distal
a band statement on the joy of making music and sharing it with the world.
For all the praise that I’ve heaped on this release, the endearing naivety that lies under their brilliant songwriting hints at potential for further refinement and maturity. They hardly know it though, constantly beating themselves up at every turn. Hell, by the second song they drop a ridiculous assertion in the gang vocal moment of the album: “I HAVE A FUTURE IN FAILING!
” Damn kids don’t know how good they are; they have a future in anything but.