Review Summary: Kings of a dead genre.
In 2012 it’s hard to bring anything new to emocore. Through the melding of influences from across the punk spectrum, pioneering aggressive acts like Orchid and Jeromes Dream offered listeners an urgent tone and a potency of material that is largely absent from today’s scene. Enter Capacities, a promising four-piece New Jersey outfit featuring ex- and current members of a handful of seminal emo bands from the past decade. While they will undoubtedly be compared to the former projects of their members, Capacities do well to separate themselves from their collective past, and such comparisons will ultimately do little to distract from the quality of this new project.
The Unexamined Life
impresses because it documents a band that understands the essence of a style that faded out a decade ago. Capacities reach back to draw on the undeniable immediacy of first-wave screamo bands without compromising their relevance. Initially the record sounds like a throwback, but repeated listens expose songwriting clearly utilizing the diverse palette of sounds in modern emo and hardcore, and rarely are those sounds used as effectively as on The Unexamined Life
This album is a testament to the style’s essential elements, a statement of power explosive and pensive in all the right places, a stormy tone pervading throughout. The production and mix are raw but inviting, close enough to ensure each band member is clearly audible, but organic and rough, lending more intense sections a mangled wall-of-sound quality. Narrative song structures allow Capacities the freedom to explore a variety of moods in between fits of distortion, drums and throaty screams, violent episodes punctuating more brooding sections. It works very well for them.
It could probably be debated what the value is in a band like Capacities, so greatly indebted to their influences that with a cursory listen one might mistake them for a band formed fifteen years ago. And indeed, throughout the album there are traces of screamo lineage. “Hedgehog’s Dilemma” recalls the dark, swirling claustrophobia of Funeral Diner, sub-thirty-second rampage “Shigoto,” built from melodic but fractured riffs recalls Ampere, and Off Minor informs the brilliant second half of the title track. There is no shortage of bands influenced by late 90s and early 00s emo, but few approach their music with the same steady hand and tangible immediacy as Capacities. The Unexamined Life
places them above the great majority of their contemporaries, and they will surely be turning heads in the future, with or without help from the reputations of their associated acts.