Friday, May 6, 2011
Patriarchs - Emerge (2009)
As a music lover with wide-ranging and eclectic tastes, it becomes nearly a requirement to seek out and support the underground. This is partially because there just isn't enough variety on mainstream radio, and because oftentimes the underground produces as many (if not more) great artists or bands who have a vision for their art and while many of them are trying to break into the mainstream, a large majority of those can claim that they are still being true to their art with what they're doing, at least until the record companies get a hold of them and have their way. However, the hardcore scene is one of those insulated things that doesn't often get polluted by the mainstream, even when they are vying for more money. Sure, there are hardcore bands that "sell out", but every genre can claim that. More often than not, however, hardcore bands can safely say that despite being on a major label or even a big indie, they often stick to their guns and stay with the same basic sound they've developed, even if they're still growing as a band or expanding their sound based on the direction they were already heading.
The great thing about the underground is that you can often find hidden gems littered among the rubble. Hardcore bands these days are a dime a dozen, as are metalcore and deathcore bands. As much as I enjoy each of the aforementioned styles, I must admit that the last few years have produced an absolute glut of bands jumping on the proverbial bandwagon. So how do you separate the wheat from the chaff? Well, you can rely on labels like Victory, Rise, Facedown, Solid State, Blood & Ink, etc. to do the job for you, if you're content on just digesting what's readily available at your local Hot Topic. If you're like me, however, you earnestly seek out good music and wish to hear the best of the best, even if some of that is tucked away in a corner somewhere, far below the radar. That's how I discovered Patriarchs. They sent me a friend request via my Myspace account (yes, I still use it), and after sampling their stuff briefly, I knew I had struck gold.
I would best compare Patriarchs to scene peers like Bringing Down Broadway or Gray Lines of Perfection, though I would say Patriarchs is overall a bit heavier than both, has catchier songwriting, and out of the three has the best use of clean vocals, not to mention the best clean vocalist. Also of note is that their sound leans a bit more toward metalcore perhaps than the other two bands, and is slightly less breakdown dependent than the others as well, which some may view as a good thing. Guitars move nicely between heavy riffing and chunkiness, to a more melodic tone that is still driving and has weight to it. In addition, there is an interlude track and an outro track that utilize a much more ambient, totally clean guitar sound as well that sounds great within the context of the material. As usual, bass gets buried in the mix somewhat, though it rumbles nicely along with the guitars to give added weight and heaviness to the overall sound. Nothing earth shattering going on here, but really solid and on point. Drumming is quite good as well, perfectly fitting the music and adding nice little touches here and there.
Vocally this is a good release. While the hardcore/shouted/gruff vocals don't stray too far off the beaten path, in terms of how they're executed and that there's little variation, but what they do they do well. They are up front, in-your-face, and provide sufficient evidence that the band believes what they are communicating. Clean vocals are a cut above the norm for this genre and style - they are well executed and don't sound like a 14-year old boy trying to sing before he's hit puberty. That's the sad reality of a lot of heavier bands implementing clean vocals these days; the honesty of the vocal sound is good, and I applaud that, but as a vocalist myself one can only listen to that so long before it grates. But when one is singing as well as is done here, it's a much more welcome thing.
Overall, I would have to say this is my favorite melodic hardcore/metalcore record in the underground right now, and certainly of 2009. Either this band is not trying to get signed (may be a smart move in these times of self-marketing), or the right folks haven't heard them yet, because they deserve the attention. To be clear, there's absolutely no new ground broken here, so if you're looking for something a little different, this is not the place. But if you crave a really solid, well played melodic modern hardcore/metalcore album with inspirational lyrics and passion to spare, "Emerge" is more than worth your time, because they pack a punch and leave the listener both satisfied and wanting more at the end of the CD. Recommended.