Review Summary: 2020 kind of sucks, but this album doesn't
Higher Power are taking a calculated risk here. By tempering their hardcore roots with some unabashedly ‘90s alt rock hooks, it sounds like they’re trying to crossover from a fanbase that’s still young and limber and resilient enough to think moshpits are a good idea to a fanbase that probably sits around complaining about how music has all gone downhill since ‘94. It’s risky because that first group probably hates the second group, and with good reason. Well, hopefully Higher Power won’t completely piss off their original fans because the sound that they end up with on 27 Miles Underwater
is actually kind of appealing. Kind of very
Maybe this is who Higher Power have been all along: a bunch of dudes who grew up listening to their older siblings’—or is it *shudder* their parents?—Porno for Pyros and Deftones CDs, and they’ve only just developed the songwriting chops to actually sing and play the melodies in their heads. Or maybe they just want some radio airplay and figured that the best way to get that is to make their music more accessible to normies and gen-x dad-rockers. Whatever the case, there are elements of the ‘90s baked into 27 Miles Underwater
in all kinds of obvious and slightly less obvious ways. At their most aggressive, the vocals—delivered by the amazingly monikered Jimmy Wizard—still largely recalls Brendan Yates of Turnstile, but there’s also plenty of Perry Farrell in there. And then when the band decides to hit a chorus they switch into a very convincing simulation of the shoegazing melodic side of Deftones. They even have a song on the record called “Passenger”. Coincidence? Maybe, but I doubt it. Their influences aren't just limited to Jane's Addiction and Deftones. “In The Meantime” might look like a Helmet cover, but it sounds like a very respectable lost Smashing Pumpkins ballad, and the opening suspended chords of “Self Rendered: Lost” seem specifically designed to remind the listener of Alice in Chains’ “Rooster”.
However, while these kinds of references and influences permeate the album, it isn't as if Higher Power are content to just ape their idols. The riffing on the album, such as on the outstanding "Shedding Skin" and "King of My Domain", the latter of which even features an impressively flashy solo, proclaim that the band has a musical identity all its own and that they haven't abandoned their hardcore roots. The vocals, despite recalling the flannel era, merely evoke without overtly imitating. This new-found melodiousness might turn some of the band’s original fans off, but it’s a bit of a boon to the band. Wizard’s yelping hardcore vocals can be kind of monotonous and grating after a while, but the presence of actual melodies and hooks on the songs make the switches to aggro-mode that much more palatable. Who knows, maybe this is the sound of 2020—a sound to unite the dad rockers and hardcore kids alike. Or maybe this album will sink without a trace by being too punk for the grunge crowd and too grunge for the punk crowd. Or maybe it’s just a good album driven by a ton of fuzzy punky guitar energy and some very solid hooks.
Lost in Static: https://youtu.be/96cIEAadwRs