Review Summary: The next best thing to Hot Cross, for all you enthusiasts of technicality and passion in a screamo package.“What a horrible place to start,”
I can’t help but thinking to myself as Ruined Lives
becomes deeper and deeper ingrained into my brain. The odd realization calls for some reflection on screamo and post-hardcore in general. Generally speaking, the rougher types of music at hand aren’t all that inviting to begin with. Harsh vocals, odd technical aspects, oft-grating production, and an aesthetic that says everything but, “Hey everyone, listen to me!”
make sure of this. Nevertheless, it’s odd that such sparkling examples of high-quality screamo tend to be the most dense, the most uninviting, the most difficult to penetrate. Unpolished and caustic, Ruined Lives
is an ideal demonstration of this inkling I had. The quartet from New Hampshire (of all places?!) glorifies the heavier side of emo. Much like peers Hot Cross achieved with Cryonics
and Fair Trades and Farewells EP
, Transistor Transistor have fashioned an intelligent emo hybrid of technicality and emotion.
The album art, one of my personal favorites, is intriguingly ambiguous. Thirty seconds into “Morning Sickness,” TT smashes any hint of that ambiguity with choppy riffs and guttural screams. The vocal duties are spectacularly executed, adding a desperately-needed dimension to complement the emotionless technicality of Ruined Lives
. It would have been easy for TT to simply waltz down the aisle, riff with splendor, and let the guitars speak for themselves; but thankfully the screaming, executed with a snarl and a slur, is far from lackadaisical. A few of the albums highlights like “Celluloid Rats” even showcase the bands aptitude for diversity by adding in dual vocals, some throaty shouting to complement the unintelligible screams. Perhaps most distinguishable amongst the powerful intensity, though, is the sheer destructiveness of TT. Weirdly enough, Ruined Lives
is somewhat reminiscent of good ‘ol rock n’ roll because of the energy, the nice groove TT find themselves in. Once again, it’s that snarl in the vocals, the nice flow of energy that the band executes so acutely that adds to this sentiment. This concept, the rock n’ roll side of Ruined Lives
, is probably the only aspect that leans Transistor Transistor towards the “listenable” end of the spectrum, as other facets of the band’s sound will only serve to turn away mild, virgin ears and elate ragged, veteran ones.
It’s often hard to tell where Transistor Transistor plan to go next, their style is so erratic from song to song. The only expected attribute is the intensity and power that stays fairly headstrong throughout. Respite is present but scant, as TT add some sludgy, ominous build-ups to songs like “Morning Sickness” and “Pillar of Salt.” The breaks are used appropriately, and do well at highlighting the raucous energy, the bursts of explosion that make Ruined Lives
outstanding. Structurally, this is where TT shines. The songwriting sounds incredibly deliberate, each moment designed to accentuate the next. This way, even though you’re not sure where the song is going to drop you off next, you can have confidence that it’s going to be spectacular, not to mention more exciting. With turns and twirls, stops and starts, “Letter of Resignation” is a prime example of this intense, vigorous carnival ride from hell.
With many varying methods of achieving the dark, damp, heaviness of Ruined Lives
, Transistor Transistor were bound to take a wrong turn some
where. And they do- a few of their methods are dangerously heavy-handed, and end up overshadowing the two key aspects of the record- passion and technicality. Take, for instance, “Harvest.” The track was written cleverly, but the 6-minute runtime eventually overtakes the band’s knack for passion and ends up flat on its stomach as the last few minutes drone on. For the type of music TT are clearly inclined towards, pithy is always more powerful. Luckily, the mishaps here or there never manage to overwhelm Ruined Lives
... and how could they? Ruined Lives
is a chugging steam engine, a powerful record limited only by the boundaries it creates for itself. In effect, the radical nature of Ruined Lives
won’t benefit newcomers to the genre; but screamo fans and post-hardcore followers alike are sure to revel in the impassioned technicality and maze-like heaviness that Transistor Transistor executes so eloquently.