Review Summary: The Banner want to show you their ugly side.
I have a tendency to enjoy bands that have a darker sound to them regardless of genre. There is this inherent desire for me to hear others cry out from their particular place of isolation. The funny thing (or perhaps it's not funny at all) is that I haven't quite decided yet if it's because I enjoy knowing that I'm not the only one who fights depression, or because I can soak in someone else's insecurities and darkness and ignore my own for a short time. Greying
is desperate, despondent, and darker than any other album I've heard this year. More than anything else, The Banner want to show you their ugly side; tortured screams, hints of black metal and post punk
(of all things) melded seamlessly to hardcore, and spastic tempo shifts help to make Greying
one of the most memorable and unique albums of 2014. Member changes and a brief break-up of the band haven't necessarily changed the band's sound at all, but rather bolstered the unique songwriting and allowed them to progress even further with it.
The repeated, wounded screams of "It never/gets better" at the end of "Circle of Salt" give a fair idea of what to expect throughout the album. There is a bare, primal honesty that almost makes this uncomfortable to listen to, especially in the excellent track "Unbaptized". The unhinged guitar-squealing solo that appears at the end of the song absolutely steals the show despite the revealing lyricism. The desolation portrayed in "Sunlight" is a bit jarring at first. Creeping distortion and instruments relegated to the background suit the haunted clean vocals quite well, but after the exercises in heaviness that are the first two tracks it's a fairly unexpected turn. However, as Greying
continues on, the tempo changes and post punk influences just become one more way that the album distinguishes itself from its peers. In fact, without the post punk this album would suffer from a lack of variety; because of the songwriting variables that The Banner have to work with, the hardcore elements are welcome and fresh-sounding. Eleven tracks that all sounded like the fast-paced "Crippled Despair" probably would have blended together and seemed formulaic, but armed with myriads of ways to express the bleak tone this album is anything but predictable. Instrumental track "Bones to Dust" is a prime example of this, throwing a blues sound into the mix that elevates the record even further.
When melodic hardcore band Manners released Pale Blue Light
in January of this year, I was astounded at the personal lyricism and the multitude of ways that they expressed such a dark atmosphere while still making it listener-friendly. It only makes sense that The Banner completes the bookend in December with this album (though there are disparate differences in the styles here). Greying
is an incredibly unique album that personifies depression; not just by the lyrics that demand to be heard, but also by that inarticulate and incessant void that I feel sometimes myself. The Banner have created an album that helps me to get up and be angry about it for forty-plus minutes, and sometimes that is more productive than any other self-help strategy I've ever tried. By the time "Sunset" comes on, my blood is pumping and the adrenaline is helping me to understand how alive I really am; I am as excited for my future as I am for The Banner's future output.