Review Summary: Pg. 99 matures in the span of 20 minutes.
As someone who has taken no more than cursory glances at the 'screamo' brand, it is damn near impossible to not slip into the rabbit hole at which pageninetynine points. I've arrived here because I received a challenge to write a review of any album that was top-10 in the screamo charts on rateyourmusic.com. Naturally, those 10 albums do not offer a lot of variety when it comes to location, time, or even bands and their respective members. Most selections fall within the golden age of '00-'03, while the groups responsible inhabit the East Coast of the United States, and contain a male with the surname Evans, Taylor, or Bajda. This particular album by pageninetynine, Document #8
, is one of four albums in the selection that lists Kurt Ballou as an engineer.
Ballou's talent is displayed within the first thirty seconds of this record, with drums that are battered with equal parts finesse and raw anger. With the exception of the guitarists who have relatively soft arrangements on the intro cut, it sounds like everyone in the band is relentlessly angry, directing their rage at a distinct focal point. While both vocalists concoct a satisfying performance in terms of their actual delivery, they falter in lyricism. This first song is longest but one across the whole album, but it achieves that length through reusing just a handful of weak lines. Sure, it gets to the four-minute mark, but recycling tired allusions to vampires and ghosts means that the song has not rightfully earned it. Repetition is not completely ubiquitous across Document #8
, but it materializes in different breeds. The second track uses a two-note bass motif for the majority of its allotted time, book-ended by verses that still do not sound particularly novel. A tongue is likened to a razor, and that is not a striking metaphor by any means.
Somewhere between all seven songs, there is a point where pageninetynine start playing with some vital ferocity and urgency. 'We Left As Skeletons' is a beautiful example of everyone involved functioning at their peak in one short burst of time. The guitarists take this opportunity to lash out violently against the pulverizing drums, and these peculiar lyrics manage to get their message across through brilliant means, describing life as something one can bite into and pick from their teeth. This song kickstarts a fantastic run where pageninetynine actually take the time to fill their recordings to the apex with refreshing ideas. It's frustrating that this was not happening during the first moments of Document #8
. In this latter half, less lyrics are repeated, the imagery no longer feels so childish, and the performances from everyone are for more electrifying. 'Punk Rock In The Wrong Hands' could be considered the pinnacle of this, with the mantra of "Stomp! Stomp! Stomp!" being nothing short of relentless.
Parts of Document #8
feel worn out, others are spectacular, others are downright silly. However, my gut tells me that pageninetynine never cared about consistency. A Kurt Cobain sample starts off the whole album with the statement that punk rock is meant to embody freedom; that anything is valid as long as it has passion. Fully realizing that motto was likely never difficult for this band, as this album is chock full of passion. Problems lie in how that burning fervor manifests itself. Tropes present on 'In Love With An Apparition' read as puerile, making the vocalists look like their expressive songwriting abilities are not yet thriving. That comes later, three songs later to be exact, once their bodies are filled with the hatred that comes from constant rejection, seemingly never living up to the standards of anyone, not even themselves. The enmity eventually overtakes them, and transforms their personalities into ones full of apathy. At this point, the band finally explode with all of their might and create their most heart-wrenching pieces. Document #8
is just a late bloomer, that's all.