Review Summary: Portland act Whispers Of Wonder releases a promising EP, taking Metalcore into exciting new directions.
There's no doubt that today's scene is filled with derivative core bands that often present themselves as clones of past bands that took music to much more precocious levels. There is certainly no shortage of bands that are simply trying to emulate or replicate the styles of bands past, concerning themselves too much with trying to fit into a particular scene or just trying to convince themselves that what they're doing is new. Fortunately for us there are bands like Whispers Of Wonder who are able to see past the mediocrity of the music industry, and in the process find ways to push boundaries in terms of musical progression. Of course, even this group has certainly had their dealings with label politics, having to then find a way to carve out a niche without the support of a major label.
I first encountered Whispers Of Wonder through social media, and through friends of friends I was introduced to their music through the song "To You My Love". Portland’s Whispers of Wonder are not the latest doo-wop group playing “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” in a lounge in Mesquite, Nevada. Whispers of Wonder are an extremely melodic metalcore outfit whose debut, The First Year EP, is the first entry in what the band refers to as wondercore.
This one band genre is suspiciously similar to the likes of Asking Alexandria, but differentiates itself with enough table saw screeching and honey-kissed cleans to offset the taint of all the Macbook emo bands floating in the YouTubeniverse.
There’s the ubiquitous waste of digits at the onset of the EP, “Intro,” which is kept to a bare 15 seconds of whispers about self-sacrifice. The even more required schwooop sound tacked on the front of every metalcore album opener steams up from “Intro” and lights the fuse on “The First Year”. Semi-thrash guitars and double-whacking floor toms bully their way toward vocal trade-offs rough and pretty, and set the tone for the EP. Above all, the riffs on this EP are first rate. They rise above the generic wrist workouts heard in most metalcore or wondercore or whatever.
The First Year is a competent exercise in glimpsing the boys’ personal journals that detail their angst-ridden journey through a thriving musical scene into the arms of promotion, adoring fans and a boutique record label willing to squeeze an album budget of its overhead. Lukkie, Chree, Austin, Tristen and Calin have worked hard to get where 99.999 percent of all bands never arrive.
The First Year EP doesn’t redefine metalcore. It’s seriously melodic and tracked with a solid production encapsulating everything. The cleans are magnificently pubescent, the uncleans are rather unconvincing. As if acknowledging this deficiency, the unclean vocals transform into screeches as the EP flies through its 21 minutes. Screeches deteriorate into high-pitched screams that emote nothing more than what it must feel like to have a soldering iron applied to one’s nipple.
The five songs are of a piece, which heightens the supersonic passage of the EP. The wonder in this wondercore is how fast 21 minutes can expire, which is a compliment to Whisper of Wonder’s arrangement work. Indeed there are the massed choruses and the usual time signature trickery, yet the EP is nearly a breakdown-free zone. Whispers of Wonder use them, but in ways that actually work to enhance their track presentations. In this they are singular when compared to other genre bands whose arrangements seemed to be constructed by guys on defibrillators.
Brick-solid musicianship that didn’t require steroid injections during recording makes Whispers of Wonder sound like veterans far beyond their years. The title track and “Attempt to No Avail” are songs by very young men targeted to a very young audience. They undoubtedly appeal to the spine-chills of love gone wrong and lives spinning into a hazy future. “To You My Love” is a bi-polar ranter that strains at the chains from its gut-rumble intro to its flex-like-Schwarznegger unclean vocals to its ridiculously overdone banshee shrieks, rescued by its superior melody.
Much of the EPs melody inches toward brilliance. Whispers of Wonder’s single “Plague of the Broken Hearted,” crummy lyrics and all, is a true benchmark of wondercore. Strings show up in perfect ratio. Spicy Gary Holt-like riffs adorn the vamps and the overall build takes the song to where it should go, into wonder and toward the promise of what they band has in store on its 2014 full player.