Review Summary: Where growth is decay
Theatria are back once again with their pop inspired post-hardcore to change the face of music as we know it. On their 2012 release the band shows signs of experimentation and progression as a unit. Rather than settling for bland mid paced, safe song structures the band now sets foot into new areas and sensibilities. A notable difference is the trade-off of pop punk melodies found on their debut album to the inclusion of metalcore sections scattered throughout the album.
Just because the band is shifting gears however doesn’t mean that this rusted hunk of junk is going to make it up the hill. The band’s mission statement would have you think that they are trying to seamlessly incorporate both the sweet, catchiness of pop music and harness the emotional prowess of harsher, darker music all in one go. The compromise for polarizing stylings however only results in weaker scenarios for both parties.
First off the production on this album is pretty poor, the instrumentation sounds jumbled and really low basically like a wall. This situation isn’t bad in itself I mean sludge metal bands and the sorts pull it off all the time, in this case however the instrumentation is thin and dull without any punch leaving the listener not only without immersion but the instrumentation without character. Alike most post-hardcore bands in the modern scene Theatria allows their vocalist to carry the weight of the haul. Yes, Todd Barriage is blessed with a mighty impressive range and can hit all the high notes the scene girls oh so crave. For whatever push Todd has in vocals though, he shares an equally hindering problem that he and the ginger community have to face every day: the lack of soul entirely. Complete empathy just borderlines on unacceptable when a band is setting out to make vocal centric music, if the instruments are nothing more than support- then the burden to deliver the zingers lies on the vocalist’s shoulders.
Theatria know what they want to do exactly and that is precisely their bane, the band winds up pursuing their goals with systematic focus to the point where everything just becomes conclusively try hard. The biggest criminal of myopic song writing is the vocalist with alongside his first-hair-on-the-nuts lyrics, Todd manages not to whine, but rather to apathetically send himself through the phases. Take ‘Unsinkable’ or hell any chorus for example: the notes just move up and down really fast to create some sort of hook. The result of demoralized approach is nothing but distant and calculated structure. Every time an attempt is made to evoke some sort of particular affect from their listener Theatria ultimately will provide their audience with the bare basics, and the underwhelming minimum. Not only does every chorus sound the same, but every harsh vocal section also falls to prey to this trap as well. Todd has some mighty roars stored away, and as he unleashes the beast the instrumentation does a sort of a stop, go crashing motion for every few seconds. That’s it. Don’t expect much else from the harsh vocal sections other than awkward placements and even more cringe worthy trade-offs with the ill-fitting clean vocals.
With all of these ideas Theatria probably would have been better off to create a full length album than have settled for the short run time of their 17 minute EP. Rather the band opted to fit all these ideas into just too little of space resulting in down right dreadful songwriting. “Johnny Wave” for example starts off with an upbeat little punk melody and immediately loses all momentum with the sudden appearance of a ballad, which is immediately followed by a stale, emotionless chorus. Or how about “Ghost Notes” where the singer manages to summon some emotional character where when on the edge of bursting only delivers a mid-paced, emotionally neutral, catchy tune. What really helps out in terms of pacing this time around however in comparison to Theatria’s debut is the drummer who has improved his energy quite a bit on this release. Although far too low in the mix he manages to pick up the tempo a bit and allows arrangements to occasionally fall out of withdrawn modesty.
‘Never Let Go’ doesn’t do much right much, it shows a band trying to grow, but growth is hitting them like puberty hits the pores. The band tries too hard to fit too much into a small space while ultimately saying too little. The cold approach of this album overall makes it feel lifeless and hardly engaging, when Theatria manage to spark fire maybe some real growth can follow, but not until then.