Review Summary: This Place You Still Know
Hardcore was always designed to be a weapon. Its passionate, brief, punk-on-speed style made it an ideal missile to fire right between the eyes of domineering power systems, frequently featuring dynamic vocalists purveying venom against those calling the shots. Turn that metaphorical sonic rifle around and the payoff is equally immense, with the instrumental and lyrical assault working overtime to expose internal demons in violent fashion. Pennsylvanian quintet One Step Closer find themselves here; they’re consistently poised on the edge of a personal abyss, drawing power from a quiet depression that’s painstakingly drawn into the spotlight, all the while carrying an adolescent sense of disillusionment and nervousness that’s commonly reflected in the prose they present. Songs for the Willow
is another dose of introspective tunes intent upon coaxing a catharsis from struggles and grief. Each of the three tunes mark somewhat uncharted territory for the up-and-coming band, and they’re an entertaining teaser for whatever may come in the future.
The gang’s core dynamic will be familiar to returning listeners—the vocals still remain the heart of the collective’s work, the bass lays down some delicious grooves, the guitars form a reliable foundation in the mode of Have Heart or late-career Departures—but, in a slight departure from debut LP This Place You Know
, there’s an increased emphasis on constructing memorable choruses that stand above their respective songs. Opener “Dark Blue” is based around its anthemic chorus, which is buttressed by a further enhanced melodic edge that characterizes the entirety of the release’s duration. The band even takes a stab at hardcore-pop with “Turn to Me” and its likewise pronounced refrain, with harmonizing clean and harsh vocals providing a compelling contrast. It’s generally a more reserved effort from the Wilkes Barre gang despite the lingering abrasiveness of the guitars; the increase of gentler chords and concert-ready choruses leaves more space for the vocals to operate, allowing the EP’s hooks to take over with their infectious nature. The intimacy of the band’s songwriting endures, making Songs for the Willow
another fine addition to their slowly-growing catalog.