Review Summary: A vocal performance not to be missed.
Mahria’s debut contains the best female vocals I’ve ever heard within the emo/hardcore scene. Corby Burnett’s emotive shrieks captured my attention from the first vocal release on the ferocious opener "Lights" – I sensed there was something excitingly different about her emotional expression. What sets her screams apart is their startling femininity; there seems to be a trend for the too-few female screamers fronting hardcore bands to imitate the vocal approach of men (see: iwrestledabearonce and The Agonist), growling and heaving their way over the discordant music. It becomes troublesome when I can barely distinguish them from male screamers, especially when the main pull of the band is the gender of the vocalist. Burnett sounds very much like a girl as she is tearing her heart out and slapping it on record, resulting in a distinctive and affecting vocal performance that thrives on contrast. There is an inherent frailty to the female voice, and Burnett’s wails are characterized by this element while simultaneously harboring desperate, forceful angst that pierces through the surrounding chaos. Her screams are believable – I feel deep empathy for her when I hear them, wanting to extinguish whatever is causing her pain, as illogical as that desire is. It is the only reaction I can muster to expression that feels so deeply and uncomfortably human.
The environment inflaming Burnett reinforces the depth of my emotional response: it is abrasive and combative, creating context for her self-destruction. Melodic riffs reminiscent of Loma Prieta puncture punchy track lengths as unpredictable drumming hammers forward through the reckless disorder. The most technically-proficient song on this release is perhaps "Justification of an Old man": the atmosphere is genuinely thrilling, as stop-start drumming coupled with a catchy guitar motif repeatedly stalls the movement of the track. The instrumental track preceding the closer is also a highlight: it is thoughtful and reflective, offering needed reprieve from the numbing assault of the other songs. To be frank though, S/T Cassette
is carried by Burnett’s vocals – were it not for her, the band could very well be labeled as derivative within the populated emo scene. Nevertheless, the combination of her hysterical shrieks with the aggression and technical ability of the band amounts to a shockingly impressive debut. To put it bluntly, this is not a release to be overlooked.