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In a recent Facebook post by Tasmania’s Save The Clock Tower, the band mentioned that they were finally writing the music they’ve always wanted to write. Naturally, you would think that’s what bands do all the time, as it’s their band and their music after all, right? Wrong, as it turns out, quite a few groups start off writing what they know others will like rather than what they themselves would most enjoy. This is something that Melbourne’s Belle Haven know all too well. However, the Melbourne boys are now like a young, prospering Jim Carey and they give zero fucks and are writing for themselves, which really shows on their debut album, ‘Everything Ablaze’.
This long-awaited debut album has been well over two years overdue but behind-the-scenes issues have held it back for far too long. Most bands, if not all, face those trying and testing times, yet despite the long, dark turmoil filled tunnel of the past couple years, this quintet have thankfully made it out the other end stronger than ever.
‘Everything Ablaze‘ acts as a great re-introduction to the local Australian heavy music scene. It is a solid mixture of the band’s soaring, clean, post-hardcore sound and hard-hitting brand of old school metalcore in the vein of bands like Norma Jean and The Dillinger Escape Plan. When compared to their previous releases, this full-length does feel familiar yet the sonics are ahead by leaps and bounds (that’s what happens when you work with Matt Goldman kiddies). There’s a refreshing sense of aggression and direction here. This is something that now seems glaringly absent from their past work, yet, by comparison, that then makes this album all the better for it. And of course the influences from Underoath and The Chariot are as clear as day though and that is no bad thing.
Alright then, enough fucking pleasantries.
The way this album starts is very, very different to the way it ends. Opener ‘Rolls And Fame’ is a chaotic burst of energy that’s as raw as it is bewildering. Jagged, stabbing guitar riffs claw out at you with venom, harsh screams create a wondrous cacophony of aggression and tight, sporadic drumming helps create a rip-roaring sound. It’s a sound that the band does repeat throughout but it’s welcomed repeat each and every time. However, the final track, ‘Ms. Black Dress’ is on a whole other planet than the opening track. It’s slower, more melodic and dynamic, its chords and melodies are chilling as opposed to being raw and harsh, and it closes out the record on an incredible high note. Think of this song as if an album started out like Norma Jean but ended as Circa Survive meets Death Cab For Cutie.
And yes, it’s as striking a contrast if there ever was one.
Now, this kind of duality can be a blessing and a curse. It creates a dynamic and varied sound for the listener and shows that a band is more than just screams and breakdowns, but it can also be quite a jarring sonic change, and it can be frustrating for some that the band won’t pick a sound and stick to it. However, if you just stick to one sound then people say it’s generic or too boring or that it’s nothing new, so bands can’t win really in that regard. But variety is the spice of the life, and on some tracks you’ll flail your limbs around like you’re being attacked by crazed, invisible bees and head banging along like your one and only goal in life was to break your neck, and on others you’ll be singing along as loud as you can like your very life depends on it. This duality is something that could have very easily blown up in Belle Haven‘s face, but it hasn’t here – all long hair and chiseled cheeks remain impeccably clean.
Another great example of this contrast is the album’s two singles – ‘Hunt For Health’ and ‘The Looking Glass’. The former is a short, punchy track that is the band at their heaviest and the latter refuses its heavier tendencies straight up with soaring clean vocals and giant melodies, and with no breakdowns or screams in sight. You would be forgiven for thinking that this was two completely different bands; one who sounds like they listened to way too much of The Chariot recently and another who seems like they are looking for a UNFD/Rise Records deal. Plus ‘The Looking Glass’ is the closest a band could ever come to being Circa Survive without you know, actually being Circa Survive.
Furthermore, the emotional and heartfelt ‘Heartache Delusion’ and the soaring anthem of ‘This Is A Congregation, Now Sing’ are where the band shows off their lighter, brighter sides. It’s definitely a far cry from songs like ‘Hunt For Health’,‘Closet‘ and the gnarly ‘Rebirth Of Self‘. Shit, even when the cleans come through on the heavier songs, like they do on ‘Tongues’ and ‘Ornament’, and it’s never in an overly catchy or pop-orientated manner. Above all else, the song’s integrity is left intact and music can still hit hard and fast like a US stealth bomber over a Middle Eastern country that just won’t give up because they’re totally harbouring insurgents and weapons, goddamnit.
This album is deserving of credit based on its own untarnished and unbiased means. ‘Everything Ablaze‘ is simply a fantastic record from start to end!
Maybe because we expect so much from bands in such a short amount of time that they as artists, as musicians and as people just can’t quite keep up sometimes. For smaller, local bands this can be a really hard thing to get right and maintain. Belle Haven almost fell completely off the map due to it taking two painstakingly long years for their debut to see daylight. The question that may now be pressed against your lips is, “Has it been worth the wait?” Fuck yes it has been worth the wait! Do not, we repeat, do not sit out on this one. Belle Haven may just have hit their biggest break and it’s one that the boys definitely deserve.
1. Rolls And Fame
4. The Looking Glass
5. Paper Cup
7. Hunt For Health
8. Heartache Delusion
9. Two Trains
10. This Is A Congregation, Now Sing
11. A Rebirth Of Self
12. Ms. Black Dress