Review Summary: Creative and mature in parts, Nothing More has a bright future ahead of them.
I'd like to relate that reviewing this album has a been a true bastard to review. Nothing More, this San Antonio alterna-prog-core thing
has been vexing the hell out of me on how to properly describe their first major label effort. You may have heard the bands soaring single "This is the Time (Ballast)" already, and it gives you a decent idea of tone and the fairly amazing crystal pipes Johnny Hawkins has nestled in his neck. Nothing More
is much more expansive an album than the single hints at, but it also shows a band early in their well-deserved career making mistakes young bands make.
As I've previously iterated, the instrumentation is tough to nail down. The guitars can go from chiming licks and runs, dirty kick-drum synced djent, wall-of-sound big chords, and emotionally textured wails. Bass and drums slither about beneath the melody, creating some truly killer fills and accents and aren't afraid to deviate from the main riff. Synth and samples provide both interesting textures, but unfortunately it can get a little saturated. At all times, the cold and desperate overtones that you'd find in much more mechanical-sounding industrial albums blend seamlessly with the ragged and angst-ridden feel of so many post-hardcore acts, accentuated with an adventurous prog playfulness, and slathered with a healthy layer of snotty "Fu
ck You" attitude that only rock and punk can do so well. I'm fairly averse to simply name dropping a bunch of other acts because there aren't a lot of acts that sound like Nothing More, even current radio freshment Starset and Gemini Syndrome... but if I must, then try to imagine a sort of shifting point between Protest the Hero, Alter Bridge, My Chemical Romance, and At The Drive-In. On second thought, just go listen to them, because that's probably way the hell off.
One of the best qualities of this is the absolute earnestness of the entire affair. The album pinnacle is the progressive "God Went North" (a part where the album should have ended, but more on that in a second) is drenched with so much emotion and honesty it's difficult to imagine a better use of all the elements of Nothing More. The vocals are wrenching, the synths provide a great feel on top of the rest of the band, and the whole thing just explodes into a crescendo of crushing guitars and banshee wails I'd expect to hear from more seasoned and less... well... radio friendly acts. Other songs following along here are the wounded "I'll Be OK" and "Jenny". Directly contrasting that emotionally-charged display is the much more straightforward "Christ Copyright", a low-end exercise in criminally addictive chorus construction and charged lyrics about the nature of modern-day religious activity. There's plenty of headbanging to be had here with songs like "Take a Bullet" and "If I Were".
Despite all this goodness, there's something to be said about simplicity. There are at least three filler interlude tracks that serve little purpose (especially the ten minute closer and the entire-album-repeated-remix "Surface Flames"). "Here's to the Heartache" is a mild, radio-friendly affair that could pass for a song from The Used. "Sex & Lies" has some interesting lyrical wordplay but just doesn't have the "stuff" to hold up to the rest of the album. Above all, the biggest complaint is the way the samples run roughshod over quite a bit of the album, detracting from the actual art of Nothing More's songwriting.
showcases a band surprisingly mature for their relatively little national experience, already deep within their craft, and ready to progress. You'd be hard-pressed to find another album receiving radio airplay this dense and with this much replayability, even with the few quirks and embellishments it contains that drag it down a bit. Only time will tell if these Texans have what it takes, but all early indications are great.