Review Summary: Amongst the seemingly endless ranks of independent punk bands that you may have come across during your many Internet travels, hold on for a moment and TRY not to dismiss these two.3 of 3 thought this review was well written
The past decade has seen the rise of some of the greatest post-hardcore and screamo bands ever to meet recognition in any medium. At a time at which annoyingly catchy pop songs, corporate R&B artists and untalented metalcore/post-hardcore bands are at their most popular, many of these bands, each continuing to write brilliant songs/records and dedicate themselves to electrifying live performances go unnoticed by the audiences that are throwing their cash at the wrong
artists, however content these underground bands may be (or pretend to be) with the current system. The point of this generic mainstream-hate rant is that there are some bands that simply deserve a far greater audience than they are currently subjected to, yet I continue to believe that the dormant state of these bands’ commercial statuses will eventually change one day. Why? It’s simple. Some of these bands are just too
good. And so, we shift the picture towards California’s local punk scene, where we see two closely knit rising post-hardcore bands together making another step towards their (hopefully) inevitable break-out through the seemingly age-old punk rock tradition of the split record. In an already fantastic year for music, Californian screamo comrades Love American
bring us one of the finest hardcore releases of the year, collecting a diverse array of sounds into less than a quarter-hour of four masterful post-hardcore compositions.
Whether it be Love American or Harbours that captures your fancy, it’s hard to deny the sheer talent that both bands present us with on the record. At only four songs over an exhilarating thirteen minutes, neither of the two bands leave an insipid impression. Immediately upon entry into the EP’s brilliant opener, “Kayfabe”, Love American
grabs listeners by the nuts with an introduction shifting from a pounding chord riff to an almost metallic melody that may bring to mind the band’s debut EP closer “Then/Than” (which possessed an introduction structured quite similarly). After a number of listens, it is evident that Love American’s material relies heavily on guitar innovation and strong, chord-based hardcore sections, with guitar work as strange as a single, seemingly out-of-place repeated note present in the chorus riff of the second track (see the fifty six second mark of “Olde English Hearts”) that sounds almost like a punk guitarist’s imitation of a cat “meowing”, yet clicks beautifully with the song.
Guitarist Adam Thomas makes like a riff-machine with diverse melodic stylings in countless numbers (though I have to say that the bridge riff at 2:36 of “Olde English Hearts”, a light, moderately-high-pitched, gain-distortion based melodic line, takes the gold), while rhythm guitarist Hans Cruz, bassist Aaron Mould and drummer Ryan Longmore deliver the crushing, almost completely relentless punk sound that creates a balanced aggressive-emo instrumental performance. Vocalist Javier Ramirez (this being his final studio recording with the band) does not fail to impress, making a strong improvement in his screamed vocals which are now of a noticeably deeper pitch and far more powerful impact than on the self-titled debut. Strangely enough, Ramirez’s vocals have been developed to such an extent that his repetitive nature is of little to no relevance towards the EP’s performance (though I suspect that the high production quality of Love American’s tracks may have something to do with this; kudos to Modern American Theatre
drummer Conner Martin for taking care of that). As a band, Love American have ditched much of whatever derivative songwriting tendencies they may have possessed during the time of their first EP, formulating a most cohesive and unique sound that ultimately forms the masterpiece that they had in them all along (and will, hopefully, hail the coming of many more).
, a band differing substantially from Love American, seems to have leaned towards more of an aggressive, raw sound than that of their previous releases, as evidenced in the far more intense bass (though Hayes Martin's bass guitar
is almost completely absent, drowned out by guitarist Raymond Bolado’s tracks; only a minor fault, however) of the mix, as well as a more straight-forward, consistent songwriting approach. Harbours’ compositions can be seen shifting dynamically through scenes of aggression and tranquillity that appear almost completely void of the standard chorus-central structure, instead riding through natural transitions to form the two pieces present on the EP. In particular, these transitions materialize on the record in the form of build-ups, in that both songs begin quite powerfully, before descending into lower, more peaceful sections, until finally making a gradual climb towards a final climax passage (though “Untitled” does enter an additional outro sometime during its last minute).
The track “Promises” is simply a fantastic piece, taking magnificent guitar lines, drum tracks and vocals and combining them into one of Harbours’ most cohesive works yet, as the band performs gracefully as a single unit during the song. On the other hand, several areas of the first half of “Untitled” can be assessed as one of the lowest parts of the EP--uneventful and overly simplified--but, as soon as the track enters its build-up, listeners will immediately become hooked by a dynamic ascension from an extremely light, palm-mute guitar/cymbal-based drum interlude (note the sheer, awe-inspiring drum performance of fill-in drummer Anthony Guerrero, based on the compositions of absent band member Jordan Lowe, through these next minutes) to an emotional, “final chorus”-resemblant section, before the track (and the EP) close with a set of lingering guitar strokes and drum crashes, as vocalist Matt Gutierrez screams the words “I’m on my knees / nothing is the same / when I have to / face the rain.
In short, both Harbours
and Love American
have collectively crafted an epic, thrilling record that has already joined my favourites of the year. Whether this split will be the record that brings either of these bands to the attention of record labels or takes them into the light of a larger audience remains to be seen, but it is clear that both bands have the capability to become the icons of hardcore’s next generation. So, perhaps it’s not a matter of waiting for these bands to reach success, but rather for success to come to them.
Download the split at either Love American's or Harbours' BandCamp sites:
- “Olde English Hearts”