Review Summary: I survive this all.
Alternative metal can be fantastic. Modern rock can be fantastic. You read correctly. For all the hate, some of it warranted, the genre gets, some of it is very enjoyable. Bands like RED, Breaking Benjamin, Chevelle, and Gemini Syndrome put forth extremely emotional music complete with a dual harsh/soft vocal delivery, detuned guitar riffs, and even some orchestral/electronic elements. They are so much more creative than given credit for. Just because they aren’t constantly soloing or becoming the next Queen doesn’t mean they are bad bands, sometimes simplicity is what is needed to get to the listener. So when there’s a relatively new alt-metal band on the scene, I get really excited. I adore the genre and I love checking out what it has in store with the up and coming groups. 3 Years Hollow is one of those bands, though they’ve been around for much longer than you’d think. 2014 brought the release of their sophomore album, and although it was a slight breakthrough, it was largely overlooked. One would be amazed to know of the debut Ascension
, which came out in 2009. It’s not quite to the level of the aforementioned heavyweights, but with some more fine-tuning, 3YH could find themselves rising closer.
The guitars are tuned low, the cymbals crash, the bass makes momentary appearances, and a vocalist growls and croons angsty lyrics over a pulsating backdrop. This is the main formula of the record, but man do they execute it well. Vocalist Jose Urquiza has a range similar to that of RED frontman Michael Barnes, shifting between a mid-tempo singing voice to a higher pitched croon to a gritty mix of a scream and a yell, although the former has a little more grit in his voice. He delivers the lyrics powerfully and very well, and grabs the listener’s attention throughout the record. Both guitarists deliver proficient performances throughout with some cool riffs and leads and a definite Clint Lowery/Sevendust influence on their playing. Similar to the rest of the group, while you can see their influences in what they’re playing and how they are performing, it’s still fairly original and allows the group to have their own sound. Drum and bass wise, it’s admittedly hit or miss, as would be expected. There are some moments where both do shine, but overall, they simply provide the rhythm, albeit providing it well.
Speaking of those moments, “Make Yourself” shows the band at its most cohesive and its strongest as a whole. The drums pound throughout, the bass helps highlight the quiet/loud dynamics, and of course Jose, Tony, and Neil gift the listener with pulsating riffs and fulfilling vocals. The opening riff to the title track serves to drag the listener in, then Jose steals the stage, then the bridge soars with dual guitar solos, while “Skin” shifts between stop-start open riffs, palm-muting, pinch harmonics, and power chords. “End of Demise” has a groove metal feel to it, similar to a more melodic Threat Signal or even heavier numbers from alt-metal contemporaries, like Breaking Benjamin’s “Believe” or Chevelle’s “Wonder What’s Next”. “Angels” is a bit of a softer track, and falls much closer to the mid-tempo side of things, even featuring some acoustic guitar in the verses and Jose crooning more than growling. The guitar riffs are especially catchy and the song as a whole comes off as an edgier Ten
-era Pearl Jam.
Lyrically, these guys are fairly strong. Most of the record conquers tackling inner demons and ending broken or unhealthy relationships. None of it is quite as emotional as RED but again, it’s still fairly strong. With one exception. “Down” tries hard to be an angsty, breakup track, but the line “I know you’re down on your knees sucking someone” pushes it a little too far and just comes across as a little gross and unneeded. There’s also just a little bit of filler and hit-or-miss moments.
Still, Ascension provides a heck of a listen, even carrying a killer closing track and some dollops of groove metal. Parts of it are a little too straightforward and lack variety, though it’s still at least decent modern rock. Don’t be ashamed to dig these guys. They’re worth it.