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A previously unknown force to me, Texas in July are a fairly standard, by the books metalcore outfit straight outta Pennsylvania. Yet there’s something about the group that almost forces me to love them – what, I don’t know – but I can’t. And I can’t for one simple reason; there are bands out there that do what Texas in July do so much better, and have done for years. ‘One Reality’ is the Pennsylvanian group’s second full-length record, and while a little on the short side it does the job it undoubtedly sets out to do. It is brutal, harsh and, surprisingly, at times a technical triumph.
It’s a record that has several forms. It can transform so suddenly from a lucid display of technical showmanship to a visceral, bellowing throwdown in a matter of seconds. If I had to take a guess at which one of the group’s primary influences was I’d certainly put a stroke next to the August Burns Red brand currently dominating metal.
The main departure in their styles would probably be Texas in July’s go-to move, in that they seem to love a good, mindless chug riff with the occasional swing hook. This isn’t a bad thing, exactly. Breakdowns can be a predictable tool in metalcore, and Texas in July don’t put a lot of effort in hiding them away, but it gives their music that gutsy ‘oomph’ that can be missing from a lot of technical metal.
After a pretty stock introduction track which chews up a couple of minutes, the record propels into “Magnolia”, the first song of the record, which starts with one of the helpings of chug I’ve already spoken of. It isn’t long before vocalist Alex Good launches into auditory bombardment, his brutish growls promising so much for the record to come. Just before the one minute mark, the rhythm takes one of those swing turns we love so much, as the riff that accompanies the change remains one of my favourite moments of not only the track, but the record. “Magnolia” will feel as though it runs for an eternity, but that’s because it’s comfortably the longest track on-disc; making some of the other, shorter tracks on the record feel a little underwhelming by comparison.
“1000 Lies” isn’t a bad little track, either. It’s one of the few songs that actually puts a bit of emphasis on some decent, intricate lead riffing. Though, it’s clear the entire song runs off of the same select heap of notes, providing little variety within the track. It’s almost as though the song hits the midway point and then plays in reverse, as the one riff bookends the track – even though it is a pretty sweet riff.
“Dreamer” and “Dying World” are less memorable, despite each having some memorable sections; especially the latter’s middle section that showcases some of the melodies Texas in July is capable of. Adam Gray delivers one of his best performances for the record on “No Greater Love”, from the brief tom play in the early stages of the track to the extra gear he finds half way through the song to save the song from sounding like any other track, mixing up the feels and moods for the last couple minutes made “No Greater Love” a strong track, in the end.
“May” comes out of nowhere as a sweet, intimate acoustic interlude. While it is undoubtedly lovely, it is quite out of place on a record like this. I think even the band must have known how jarring a peaceful track amidst a brutal onslaught must have been, asking post-song, almost tongue-in-cheek, what we thought of that track. Well, I dunno Texas in July – can’t say I was a huge fan.
Of the last few tracks, “Cyclops” and “Pretender” are clear standouts. The former obviously thanks to the lead work involved from guitarist Christian Royer, who injects some creditability into Texas in July with that song alone. It isn’t exactly a face-melting solo spilling over with sweep arpeggios, or anything, it’s just what was required of the song. It was refreshing to hear a, presumably, capable guitarist not over-compensating. “Pretender” is perhaps my favourite lyrical track of the record, as one of my key moments comes in the first half of the track as Good delivers a powerful line over a crushing breakdown: “You say the things you say to make yourself feel better.”
There’s enough to like about Texas in July that’ll convince me to keep an ear to the ground for their inevitable third record. I just can’t shake the thought that I feel like I’m listening to a poor man’s August Burns Red. It’s a short record that does succeed at points in capturing my attention with some brutal moments, at times rocking the senses.
3. 1000 Lies
5. Dying World
6. No Greater Love
8. Our Freedom
11. One Reality