Review Summary: If despair could be captured in audio form, "The Old Road" would be the stunning encapsulation of it.
I firmly believe that one of the greatest song titles ever is “A Heart Filled Reaction to Dissatisfaction” (City of Caterpillar). It perfectly portrays the honest, raw, and articulate nature of that bands music so well, it could very well have been an alternate name for their self-titled release. That band, with their brooding post-rock methods of inducing catharsis within their own unique realm of “screamo” helped to inspire some of the most acclaimed acts ‘screamo’ has today. While the vast majority of fans on this site are aware of Envy, Daitro, Sed Non Satiata and Raein, one of the least known bands of the “euro” offshoot has been writing music that rivals anything the (relative) big dogs have put out. Mesa Verde (headquartered in Glasgow), after releasing two solid EP’s, finally poured their creative effort into a full length record, The Old Road
, and the result is arguably the most stunning emo album of the year.
You may at first just confuse Mesa Verde for a post-rock band, as opener “A Deep Sleep Without Dreams” doesn’t explore the hardcore side of their music until it reaches its final, closing minute. A cascade of distorted guitars and drum fills, the song builds at a frantic pace until it suddenly drops out, to reveal another shorter build to the epic riffing that leads us to “For the Tree that Fell”. It is here that Mesa Verde truly reveal themselves, as a furious dissonant riff kicks in and we hear the first desperate screams of the band. However, not a minute into that assault we are presented with one of the most perfectly crafted moments of clarity I’ve heard this year. Invoking the essence of Guy Picciato’s singing in Rites of Spring, vocalist Dave delivers truly heartbreaking lines here surrounded by a swirl of clean guitar notes and percussion hits. If his pained howl of “realize time won’t heal a goddamn thing” doesn’t strike a chord in you, a few lessons in humanity might be in order.
After that poignant moment, Mesa Verde cease to relent for long on most of the remainder of the album. Contained within is impassioned hardcore music, filled with emotive screaming and singing. They capture that chord Envy strikes within us, but being English may be easier to truly connect with. The music is tightly wound, with the chaotic nature of their music being carefully counterpointed by the order of the tension-breaking post-rock moments. As opposed to building climaxes using sparse instrumentation and changing tones, Mesa Verde instead use the aggressive sections of their song to build up anger and passion with the occasional guitar interlude serving as the moment of respite. It creates an air of inexorable emotion that is never run dry or diminished by tedious plodding. Even the 13 minute “Post-Youth” is fraught with incredible energy, going through a thousand changes until the albums final cries of “One day, my dreams will meet my fears” are heard. The one thing The Old Road
lacks is any real amount of happiness (“There is no happy here!” has never been so prophetic), but its lush sound was not meant for such things.
Mesa Verde are one of those acts that are not defining any new ground, and unlike other potential landmark emo releases, this does not create nor expand greatly upon any ideas set before it, and that is possibly its only flaw. What it is, is a defining record of human frailty and longing. While it is incredibly popular to write music that reflects the dire straits of ones soul, Mesa Verde do so in a manner that is unflinchingly real and incredibly relatable. Everyone, regardless of age or whether you listen to Metallica or The Buzzcocks, can find a moment to cling to on this record, a snippet to scream your heart out to. For that, I can only give it my highest regards and accolades, while imploring everyone with any sort of interest to seek it out. The Old Road
is arguably the best underground release of the year, and every ounce of respect it can get it deserves. Tying this review together, this is ultimately an incredible oral simulation of the phrase “a heart filled reaction to dissatisfaction”.