Review Summary: Mathcore meet rock, rock meet mathcore.
Through the mid-90s to early 2000s metalcore was on the rise, bands such as Botch and Converge laid down the foundation for what would soon be taken over by mass media and commercialized into the successful spin-off known as ‘scenecore’. Rise records and the such had a knack for finding bringing in bands a like the works of Alesana for example who would attempt to capture the ferocity of extreme music but filter it through the cheese cloth that is rock music. To the disgust of metalcore and post-hardcore fans alike, this scene flourished into a full fledge subculture apostatising from what was. There was one band however short lived band that did not forget where it came from. When the flood waters rose they stayed put and honoured the grounds on which they were raised. This band is Reuben.
Reuben’s 2004 release captures the idea of filtering metalcore through rock but achieve it in ways that the dozens even hundreds of bands have attempted to convey and failed. This is because Reuben pays homage to both the dogma of selected genres and instead of cramming them in a blender, then pressing on- Reuben sets them up a great date that blossoms into a natural unison. Reuben is neither a metalcore band nor a rock band but a supreme partnership between the two. Taking the catchy, anthem fueled elements of rock and the urgent, unpredictable, hard hitting elements of a math oriented metalcore analogous to Poison The Well: the result is quite the experience.
This album contains an affect similar to that found on Weezer’s Pinkerton: the album is both tragically sad, and desperate but also a rock out despite all of the downtrodden confusion. Winding crunchy guitar lines veer across and slam the soundscape without mercy. There is a fine line between wankery and atmosphere thankfully Reuben steers clear of crossing that forbidden chalk line in the dirt. The guitar work is very mathy and technical but often comes across low key as if it is part of something larger than itself, more than just an excuse to exercise raw power. Rather it falls into the mix amongst the rest of the band who work wonderfully together. This isn’t an effort by any particular member: Racecar Is Racecar Backwards is a team effort and because of this graceful understanding there is no clashing, but a compliance and direction, driven by shaken emotion. Allowing both the rock and mathcore their time to shine, the band proficiently displays knowledge of both genres and interchanges between them flawlessly.
The rhythm sections should also be noted as they tend to be consistently strong throughout the album. Whenever the pace slows down it is the drums turn. Often during these section the drums are produced to come much more forward in the mix acting as the front of the stage while the guitar falls to the back gently gliding alongside the complex beats to sharpen the mould into a crisp atmosphere. The drum work on this album is excellent throughout though, even when not when produced to be at the front of the mix are very complex and clever throughout. Even on choruses where bands have a tendency to get repetitive or allow their instruments to suffer in favour of vocal performance the drums especially shine. Although the lyrics may repeat does not mean that the instruments have to, an example being the song ‘Horror Show’ where the drums start off quite standard but as the chorus repeats works itself out in quick licks and taps on the cymbals and taps around the other beats to not only be infectious but original and engrossing. The urgency and unpredictability combined with the melancholy vocal performance makes this album feel very unsettling. The mathy leads, the catchy hooks and the great riffs however will keep your head bobbing and arms flailing. This sense of raw emotion, is what is missing from the contemporaries of metalcore-rock, and Reuben are one of the only trying to fix it.