Review Summary: Unbridled. Ingenious.
What anyone may look for in aggressive music varies drastically, and rightfully so. There are so many variables that may alter ones enjoyment of any given piece of music. Two of the most important aspects I have come across are a feeling of intense emotional fervor, and a sense of virtuosity. These two facets tend to struggle to find equilibrium, but when they come together they can create some of the most engaging art in the world. Sitting right at the apex of where these two characteristics overlap is Palm Reader’s “Bad Weather”. What sounds like the enraged bastard child of The Dillinger Escape Plan and Every Time I Die, Palm Reader blend the perfect amount of technical abilities, passionate sentiment, and engaging songwriting to create a hardcore/metalcore album that not only holds its own against some of the greats, but exceeds nearly all expectations.
While the majority of the record is incredibly bombastic and punishing, the element of “Bad Weather” that sets it apart from most of the releases in the genre is its flow and meticulously crafted breathers that keep the listener engaged in an atmospheric, yet emotionally gripping listen. Although the first four tracks are unrelenting and maniacal, the group takes its foot off the gas with songs like “Bitter Hostess - Grace Pt. II”, “Noble Host - Grace Pt. III”, and the end of “Echo” that offer extremely captivating segments that could be compared to something off of Cult of Luna’s “Somewhere Along the Highway”, with their brittle and organic aesthetic.
Do not for one second let the talk of “breathers” coerce you into thinking that this album isn’t crushingly dense and off-kilter. Palm Reader manage to bulldoze the listener with devastating riffs and crushing beats that maintain a sense of virtuosity with their accessible approach to technical instrumentation. Simply, they do not fall victim to overzealous and indulgent technicality, rather, the music shifts tempos and spastic time-signatures are implemented in a way that remains approachable to the listener. While there is a certain sense of familiarity throughout the album, the writing seems incredibly fresh and creative. This is due in part to the subtly yet skillfully placed layers of instrumentation, giving the whole album an unmatched density and "full” atmosphere. The only real (hairsplitting) issue with the album is a finite amount sameness, leaving you thinking that the you may have heard this before. This is almost completely nullified by the relatively short run-time for the album, running near a refreshing 35 minutes.
Vocalist Josh Mckeown could be described as a British Greg Puciato (of The Dillinger Escape Plan) with his throaty screams and emotional and aggressive approach. While Puciato tends to be more melodic while using his clean vocals, you will hear Mckeown deploy are more haunting clean vocalization, heard very clearly in “Noble Host - Grace Pt. III”. His thick accent is undoubtedly heard throughout the entire album, which makes for a unique listen, and to be completely honest, adds quite a lot to the haunting aura of the record.
The chaotic and crushing instrumentation, paired with the ferociously impassioned vocals come together to form a truly evocative record with the virtuosity and technicality of bands like The Dillinger Escape Plan and Protest the Hero, and the emotion and rage of bands like Converge and Coalesce. Palm Reader exemplifies what intelligent aggressive music should be, and deserves to be held in very high regard, right next to all of the aforementioned groups.