Review Summary: A mind-numbinbly catchy and intelligent debut from a refreshing young band.
When a band takes steps to bring their sound closer to the mainstream, accusations of the band "selling out" and "losing their personality" are often leveled. And often, they're correct - creative bands with promise are snatched up by labels who squeeze them into a preexisting mold to attempt to market them more easily, and it usually doesn't work. When I the Mighty signed to Equal Vision, their first EP for the label was a marked departure from the progressive rock sound of their debut, but the catchy post-hardcore edge it brought was just as potent, if not more so. Much like the approach Circa Survive took with "Blue Sky Noise", the more straightforward tunes cut out the fat and retain most of the band's melodic personality. The band's first ever full-length album, "Satori", takes this formula and refines it to craft more varied and memorable songs with intense production and talented vocals to back them up, creating one of the best debuts of its genre in quite some time.
The album's first track "Speak to Me" kicks off the proceedings with frenzied screaming, a first for the band which only serves to highlight the song's themes of bitterness and regret. Instead of luring the listener in with their familiar sounds, they start with alienation, which is a fantastic way to really bring out the power of the song. It might not mean as much for first time listeners of the band, but it's a good example of the attention to detail on display. And it's not the only mind-blowing moment on the album - the hypnotic duets of "Four Letter Words", the jumpy acoustic rhythms of "Occupatience", and the soaring chorus of "Embers" stick out among many others. But the songcraft is so impressive that the whole album will give you earworms, and the record rarely reaches any slow points or dead songs.
Brent Walsh is front and center here, with his soothing, diverse, and intense vocals. Satori's lyrics take a turn towards mostly being about the cliché concepts of breakups and failed love, but Walsh's lyrics are so well-written and dynamic that the topics are as interesting and relatable as if a close friend was discussing them with you. The rest of the band doesn't stand idly in the background - the bass comfortably holds its own, the musings of guitarist Ian Pedigo are almost as likely to be stuck in your head as the vocals attached to them, and the drums play interestingly intricate parts that go far above and beyond the call of duty for the rhythmically simple songs they accompany.
"Satori" takes what "Karma Never Sleeps" did right and does it better and smarter. It's a mind-numbingly catchy and intelligent modern post-hardcore record. It's not crazily original or daunting in any way, but it's well-produced, well-written, admirably performed, and full of personality. Given the bland direction the rest of the genre is heading in, it's refreshing to see a young band carving out a sound for themselves while also remaining simple and accessible, and hopefully this is just the first great record of many to come.