Review Summary: Just scrambling out of the mud was a test of our resolve
The pandemic was tough on everyone, especially musicians, and it was no different for Press To Meco. Ten years into their career, the still-young English trio found themselves facing adversity in the form of their touring slate for 2020 getting wiped clean followed by their long-time bassist-vocalist, Adam Roffey, quitting the band. Reduced to a duo and at a difficult crossroads in their career, guitarist-vocalist Luke Caley and drummer-vocalist Lewis Williams almost quit music completely before deciding to give it one more shot and regrouping with new bassist Jake Crawford to finish the album they’d started working on. The strife faced by the band is clearly audible in both the songwriting and the performances, but it sharpens the band's focus, resulting in the most consistent and mature album of their career.
There has always been a hint of darkness lurking below the shiny surface of Press to Meco’s mélange of pop punk, progressive metal, and post hardcore, but it on Transmute
it comes to the surface in a way that even their trademark sunny harmonies can’t hide. Songs like “Baby Steps” seem to directly reference their struggles as professional musicians (“this could take years / and it could all end in tears
”) and, tellingly, don’t provide neat lyrical resolution because those struggles are still ongoing. The heightened angst also touches the vocal performances in songs like “Rusty Nails” and “Gold” which lean just as heavily on screamed vocals as they do on Caley and Williams’ harmonies in a new wrinkle to the band’s sound.
However, the newfound seriousness and maturity is most apparent in the relative simplicity of the songs’ arrangements. “Shouldering Sticks” and “A Test of Our Resolve” are built on simple driving riffs that crescendo in cathartic choruses that are simply stunning
and almost inarguably contain some of the catchiest hooks that the band has ever written. Even during the album’s most pissed off moments on “Baby Steps” and “Sabotage” the songs feel like they’re built around strong melody lines rather than the melodies and harmonies being shoehorned over angular instrumental lines. At their heart, Press To Meco have always been a pop-rock band who liked to conceal it beneath a veneer of flashy proggy instrumental virtuosity, but on Transmute
the band shows that it is more willing than ever to let the facade drop, and by placing the soaring choruses and sighing harmonies front and center they've put out an album that fully capitalises on the immense promise they’ve always had.
A Test of Our Resolve
 This review from Julianna is a great primer on who the band are/were, if you’re not already aware: https://www.sputnikmusic.com/review/57186/Press-to-Meco-Affinity/