Review Summary: The low-emission burning of Jeff Ling's shrine.
I am not going to claim that Byron Bay has something in their water, yet I cannot help but wonder if there is an eco-Brethernesque cult sitting in the sea breeze with stained fingers from the heaps of tie-dyeing, led by Winston McCall and a Peavey 5150. With such a distinct and powerful sound seeping out of the bay, it is only fair to assume that sooner or later statues dressed in Macbeth shoes and skinny jeans shall be resurrected to pay tribute to the mangum opus of greeny metalcore being spewed out of the area. Exaggerations aside, the town has, in accordance to one's preference, produced another solid group, who might just join the top of the metalcore food chain. This was hinted in the pleasant albeit generic offerings of "Divination", but does "Earthwalker" secure its place as a memorable release?
To shorten the comments on the amount of eco-saviour rhetoric this album bathes in, In Hearts Wake have asserted themselves as the modest chorus to mother natures' woes, and this sophomore teases the senses with an intense melodic presence, softly placed on-top of sharp, bottom string riff-work. However, while the instrumentation and refined lead-vocal work are divine, slight occurrences of shoddy phrasing and consistent genre parroting place "Earthwalker" in an annoying predicament. It is the kind of album that has all the positive intentions in both concept and execution but falls face first into the loam of complacency. Though, if one does not make any conclusions about the genre habits the group adopts, you can see the roots of something maybe great growing here.
The most obvious and note-worthy formula In Hearts Wake plays with is, of course, the open-note/ringing melody relationship. The lead guitar throughout "Earthwalker" maintains the tone and feel by delving into various effects that sometimes echo that of The Edge's work in early U2 releases. With this, the rhythm section sits perfectly as a mid-ranged backdrop to hold up the melody. Add some harsh vocals and crafted cleans, the product you find is refreshing and incredibly catchy. In the case of "Gravity" and "Divine", a listener cannot help but appreciate the authentic ring of the guitar work, and the immediate, bouncy start that sets the groove quite nicely. In comparison to Northlane, instead of a bear open-string thump, the production gives the guitar work a metallic sound, and it is quite fun to listen to. Also, one can assume that the group spent a lot of time trying to reach a middle-ground in the dull sea of core past-times, and they often find a nice balance between stone-like chug and full-bodied chords. In comparison to "Divination", the 'play-it-safe' feeling one got from the debut is pushed aside, as In Hearts Wake show a serious amount of comfort in the creation of their own structure, while maintaining some sense of genre-safety. Yet, while we can all praise the soothing melodies, the pace of their writing has dropped considerably and has lost a lot of aggression in place of atmosphere, which when not focused is incredibly cheesy or out of place. Absurdly, if you pay attention to some of the worst melodic moments, odours of Abandon All Ships-like synth can be found in tracks like "Healer". I do not need to explain how this is a disconcerting experience.
On top of all this, "Earthwalker" presents another change to In Hearts Wake's direction. Jake Taylor shines bright on this album, and one can hear that he is slowly moving away from merely mimicking McCall in his projection. "Divine" and "True North" exhibit his control and punch in the new found yell behind the mic, and one must applaud him for having some sort of personality in a world of homogeneous vocalists. However, there are instances of lyrical laziness which can make the listener recoil, and this is where "Earthwalker" loses both its shine and self-awareness, as in these moments of indolence, Taylor starts to resemble a hippie version of Dylan Richter. Take this and mix it with some embarrassing Emmurish vocal-builds found in "Healer" and the title track, the listener sometimes gets nothing more than an educated version of the latter day Woe, Is Me. While some reviews of this album claim that "Sacred" is possibly the best song they have ever written, the sheer blatancy of the lyrical theme and the forced clean performance on the part of Kyle Erich (who's presence is a lot more bearable this time around) makes the song sound almost juvenile. The issue is that once you pick this up, you cannot help but nit-pick at the theme and lose complete interest in the intended message.
Beyond my opinions about their latest installment, one cannot deny that it is an interesting listen. Erich, while remaining in puberty, does flow a lot more and has controlled his nasal rasp, and the rest of the band are on board, from the melodic touch to their qualms about ecological neglect. In the end, In Hearts Wake as a band are a particular kind of preference, and if your choice is solid, melodic metalcore, this time without the apparent tastes of Parkway Drive, then breath in the fumes of the low-emission burning of Jeff Ling's shrine, and enjoy what In Hearts Wake has to offer this time around.