Review Summary: A newfound balanceThis review was written in collaboration with contributor Manatea
What do you do when you have something that works? Do you keep the formula or do you modify it? Sure, there are a few artists who are so exceptional at their niche that it seems like all they ever need to do is tweak what’s already there, but even that approach has its fair share of critics. The vast majority face a near-constant struggle between their own artistic vision and what they are known and respected for. What we want to do, what we are capable of doing, and what others expect us to do can sometimes be irreconcilable. How does a band balance what they’ve established with what they want to accomplish?
All of that seems like a deeper concept than necessary for a metalcore record but there’s a reason for it. Moments Elsewhere
is not exactly the album you were expecting Johnny Booth to release. It is far more ambitious than the two singles initially let on. Yes, it’s heavy, sometimes almost incomprehensibly so, but with this album, the New York quintet did not try to simply improve their already workable approach—they set out to evolve. It takes chances, makes gambles and moves in ways that are not always expected. It requires patience to fully appreciate each nuance and subtlety that goes deeper than the surface elements. With this record, Johnny Booth have broken through restraints and have created an album that is crushingly heavy, unendingly energetic, and shockingly breathtaking all at the same time.
Just about everything that was already good about Johnny Booth’s music has been pushed even further beyond the limit. The technicality has been meticulously refined, the production is improved, the style is faster and (if it was even possible) heavier. The album starts at full throttle and ends there too. There are searing riffs, unconventional song structures, an eight-armed drummer, and some absolutely nasty breakdowns. Andrew Herman’s vocals are about as furious as they can get, and a majority of the album is brimming with unbridled energy. Johnny Booth go to great lengths to make sure the listener knows that they have not lost their edge, only sharpened it.
The bewilderingly heavy “2040” is like a drop kick to the solar plexus in less than 90 seconds that opens the record with overwhelming distortion and unhinged vocals. “Collapse in the Key of Fireworks” and “Ring Light Altar” fire on all cylinders, full to the brim with heavily downtuned guitars, infectious grooves, and pummeling drum chops. “Full Tilt” and “Only by Name” showcase the more technical intensity of Moments Elsewhere
exemplified through intricate riffing that accentuates the melodic undertones more than heavy, palm-muted chugs. Johnny Booth also displays their ferocity through quick tempos in tracks like the double-bass driven “Gatekeeper” and the merciless “No Comply.”
While all of the heaviness is great, and by itself would have made a great album, Moments Elsewhere
does not entirely consist of only mind-numbingly heavy music. Where previous album Firsthand Accounts
utilized melody and effects as a supplement, Johnny Booth has given these factors an almost equally important position in the composition this time around. It’s not an aspect that simply offsets the heaviness; it’s a vital component to the overall sound of the album, and it’s what makes this album an evolution rather than an improvement. As the album progress through the first half, the melodic elements become increasingly prevalent and noticeable. The songs are fundamentally metalcore, but it’s almost as if the band is bracing for something different, and as the album moves forward, each song increasingly features clean vocals, soaring guitar melodies and genuinely pretty moments.
Throughout Moments Elsewhere
, the band introduces brief moments of melodies that accentuate the surrounding heaviness. The groovy break in “Collapse in the Key of Fireworks” erupts into a massive bridge with bouncy guitars and epic vocals, while the almost jazzy moment of “The Ladder” creates a beautifully melodic atmosphere with a simple, yet powerful, guitar solo lead. The opening riffs and choruses of “Full Tilt” and “Bright Future” feature intricate string-skipping riffs and clean vocals amplified by catchy progressions of rhythm guitar work. The centerpiece of the album, “Why Becomes How,” is a melodic rush of calm in a sea of brutality, featuring not only a conventional song structure but also containing no harsh vocals. It’s a daring move, and it adds a layer of depth and subtlety to the record that hasn’t been prominent before. While the band could have continued to stick to their heavy formula that succeeded on Firsthand Accounts
, Johnny Booth took a step forward in their musical evolution and embraced a more melodic approach that showcases all facets of their style.
In a way, Moments Elsewhere
was structured to accent their amplified use of melodies across the tracklist. “Why Becomes How” is a drastic change in pace as the most melodic song of the record, devoid of much of the heaviness Johnny Booth is known for, yet the song is sandwiched between the ferocious “Only by Name” and “Ring Light Altar.” Although not as prevalent, this pattern of contrast between beatdown heavy and melodic-tinge persists throughout the record, with tracks like “Full Tilt” and “Bright Future” highlighting the more melodic focus amidst the relentless intensity of the rest of the tracks.
Rather than put out an upgrade of their last album, Johnny Booth chose to grow as a band and embrace a vision of where they were going that probably took a great deal of thought and some courage. Moments Elsewhere
takes everything the band has done, expands upon it, and adds new elements that takes them into newer territory. This may not exactly be the album you were expecting, but it’s the album Johnny Booth needed to make. Put your helmet on, strap yourself in, and turn the volume up real loud. Moments Elsewhere will take you on twisting, turning, top-speed ride through gorgeous views, blistering heat and brutal cold, into a bright future that’s probably only getting better from here.