Review Summary: Enter with high hopes; Exit with clipped wings...
SeeYouSpaceCowboy made some pretty large waves at the very beginning of 2019, and if you've been paying attention to heavy music in the late 2010's, it's pretty obvious why this is the case. In recent years, there has been an overwhelming yet highly necessary revitalization of "old school" metalcore, swapping the previously relevant formula of sung choruses, bouncy riffs, and gang chants for the more raw, aggressive, and in-your-face sound popularized by the original founders of the genre that have made it what it is today. This is a much needed change of pace, not only because of how watered down and outdated synth riffs and "blegh!" breakdowns have become, but also because the target demographic of metalcore as a whole has changed drastically. No longer are bands like The Devil Wears Prada and Memphis May Fire able to hold the attention of high school freshmen the way they were 6 to 8 years ago. Hot Topic has thrown away their CD racks, Warped Tour is now extinct, and that era of fans has reached its stages of early adulthood, where kids who once begged their parents for tickets to Mayhem Fest are now 20-somethings practicing midwest emo licks on their telecaster and yearning for music that suits their personality for who they are now, not what they were back then. And not only is the metalcore revival good for the former scene kids, but it's also good for the old heads. You know, the guy who has a Sick Of It All tattoo and now owns a vegan restaurant? The local pit warrior who's in his mid 30's, who still wears cutoff shorts and looks like he lives on a diet of Muscle Milk and steroids? The ones that grew up listening to "Jane Doe" and "Of Malice & The Magnum Heart," not Motionless In White and Of Mice & Men?
And SeeYouSpaceCowboy was a great and worthy contender in a world where old is the new black. But simply emulating a sound invented in the 90's isn't gonna create a lasting career for band. Every group that has blown up in today's scene has its own special perk that has help pushed them above the rest and into the realm of prosperity; Knocked Loose has its death metal influence, Code Orange utilizes industrial and electronic elements to their advantage, Vein has its large doses of nu metal and alt-rock infused in their music, helping them to pull in all sorts of fans. So what did SeeYouSpaceCowboy have? They had ridiculousness on their side; eccentricity in the form of spoken word, post-punk segments, and an overall vibe of sassiness and angst that was equal parts insanity and tongue-in-cheek hilarity. You never knew what was coming around the corner on their previous release, "Songs For The Firing Squad," a compilation of their past works remastered and rereleased on Pure Noise Records this January. It was a smorgasbord of brutal experimentation, bipolar in the sense that it begged for your attention before ripping your face clean on with a brutal blast of pummeling drums, frantic guitars, and consistently aggressive vocal performances. You would think that with a new record deal and a shot at becoming widely known and appreciated, the band would continue to develop this signature blend of sounds, as this is the what they have been doing for the better part of 3 years now. But, unfortunately, that is not the case.
On "The Correlation Between Entrance And Exit Wounds," SeeYouSpaceCowboy have opted to drop their captivating absurdity in favor of a more conventional approach to their respective genre... and it doesn't work for them one bit.
Gone are the quirky and dance-inducing bits of post-hardcore, the surprising switches between calm and calamity, the technicality in their music that made them stand out to begin with. With a more stripped back style, SYSC sound like they attempted to make something more mature and personal, yet they crafted something too meat-and-potatoes to be anything more than average at its core. But there are a number of things that push this album past "just ok" and towards the painfully bad end of the spectrum.
SeeYouSpaceCowboy still try to pull off that bipolar feel on TCBE&EW, but due to the more melodic elements and the attempts at providing more serious lyrical content, the changes of pace are not only lacking the boldness they had on previous releases, but also come off as awkward and unnecessary. Take "Late December" for example, a track written about vocalist Connie Sgarbosa's friend who unfortunately passed away. The song is somewhat touching and appealing... until an extremely generic and out of place breakdown completely ruins any emotion the song may have carried up until that point. Another example is "With High Hopes And Clipped Wings," composed of a nearly one note, one minute long chugged chugged section that transitions into the spastic gindcore-esque aura the band is usually known to capture, before it's abruptly replaced with a mellow crescendo that eventually reaches a cringe-worthy peak, one that attempts to tear-jerk its way into the hearts of listeners. This complete Frankenstein of a song comes together about as well as orange juice and toothpaste, and these types of cuts can be found splattered all over the tracklist of this record.
When Connie and Co. aren't creating failed musical science experiments on this album, they're cranking out dime-a-dozen songs that bands before them have done much better. Even worse, they're recycling riffs and chords in a manner that could only be described as distasteful. "Late December," "The Phoenix Must Reset," "No Words No Compensating Lies," and "With High Hopes And Clipped Wings" all share the same exact guitar riff, and the band attempt to mask this blatantly obvious regurgitation of songwriting by changing the tempo, adding or subtracting a note, or layering more ambient elements on top of it. The constant breakdowns are nothing special at all. They are nowhere near as heavy or off-the-wall as the ones you will find on their past work, and many of the tracks rely on them as a base to build off of, causing the band to drag them out to the point where you have already heard half the song in about 5 seconds. And the vocal performances are lacking the distinctiveness that made them so enthralling when I had first been introduced to them. Connie's spoken word delivery isn't cathartic, moody or snarky anymore, but rather monotone and bland. This mindless repetition and continuous boredom rolls on like a vicious cycle, and when the last seconds of the record ring off, you are left with nothing more than the realization that you just listened to 30 minutes of horrible Converge b-sides and two worthless interludes.
It's safe to say that SeeYouSpaceCowboy have lost their edge with this release. The cohesiveness in their music is missing, the charisma is fading away, and the energy that infected their previous material has been exchanged with lazy songwriting, bland instrumentation, and an uncertain future for a formerly promising group of musicians. With TCBE&EW, SeeYouSpaceCowboy prove just how quickly your band can go from slowly rising to underground stardom, to quickly dropping off a cliff into a sea of mediocrity. And hopefully, they'll manage to swim back to shore when they realize that taking this plunge was a bad idea.