For Fans Of
On Greyhaven’s pissed-off debut, 2015’s ‘Cult America’, you wouldn’t be surprised if you looked at each member’s Apple Music or Spotify accounts and found they only listened to Every Time I Die, Vera Cruz, The Chariot, Norma Jean, and The Dillinger Escape Plan. Because that’s exactly who this Louisville outfit’s first outing sounded like through and through. So much so that it all just felt like a “been there, done that” record. Sure, it was a decent, ravenous, and feedback-riddled release with some good tracks (‘Slam Coke‘, ‘Workhorse‘), but it reeked of a still young group channelling their burning rage via an oh so familiar hardcore and metalcore sound because it’s all they knew and/or all they could do.
Which is something that you cannot say about Greyhaven’s kickass second album, ‘Empty Black’. For on ‘Empty Black‘, this crazed Kentucky outfit has trimmed off their sound’s fat, ensured their syncopation is all on-point, significantly upped the levels of heaviness and aggression, honed their relentless aural assault down to a deadly art form, and have gone further off the musical deep-end. This sophomore is a shining example of emotional growth and musical maturity whilst also holding on to what you love about your band’s music and staying true to one’s own “roots”.
Produced insanely well by Will Putney, Greyhaven (no, not Belle Haven) adds in a wider palette from the likes of Deftones, Thrice, He Is Legend and Letlive. to their sound now, which provides them with a whole new depth to their sound. Of course, they still shift their collective heavy weight around across these 10 ferocious new compositions. What with ‘Empty Black’ swaying seamlessly between progressive-metal; dissonant and crunchy mathcore; soaring post-hardcore; gritty Southern rock; bouncy hardcore; and a darker alternative rock sound that offers spacious breathing room for their so often frantic approach.
Now, look, don’t get me wrong: Greyhaven still situates themselves within the hardcore and metalcore realms of your Dillinger’s, Stray’s, Chariot’s, Norma Jean’s, and your ETID’s. There’ is just no denying that fact, as those bands are all key influences on their music and I don’t think that they’ll ever ditch them either, honestly. However, that isn’t a bad thing. As the band have had enough foresight, enough ambition and enough self-awareness to push this new record – and subsequently, their sound – far beyond their debuts limitations. So while not creating something that’s wholly new, this quartet haven’t held themselves back and that’s resulted in their impressive second record feeling genuinely refreshing to experience.
Album opener ‘Sweet Machine’ is a giant belittling fuck-you to the gun nuts of their homeland that preach love for the NRA and firearms over human life (“they like to play with guns…“), all set to a vehement score of crashing hardcore instrumentals, massive grooves, and sky-scraping hooks. The frustrations of anxiety lyrically dolled out in ‘Blemish‘ race between overly hectic Ben Weinman guitar work and thick, later-day Norma Jean choruses that rise and fall like vast ocean waves. ‘Mortality Rate‘ is pumped full of swagger and is the grooviest Southern hardcore song that Every Time I Die never got around to writing; hard-hitting from start to end and is just riff city throughout. The rich vocals, watery chorus-affected guitars and screaming guitar solo after the mid-point of the Deftones-esque ‘Ten Dogs – Red Heaven’ (written about the collateral damage of war and imperialism) makes for one hell of a sublime listen. Yet Greyhaven still finds plenty of time to flex their heavier musical muscles within the runtime of this grim-as-fuck composition that’s one of the album’s best moments.
Sixth track and definite album stand out ‘White Lighters’ is on a whole other melodic and dynamic level to anything else Greyhaven have penned so far, hopefully echoing where they’ll etch their sonic markings on future releases too. The vicious ‘Kappa (River Child)’ is an unhinged creature that needs a goddamn label warning on the front because it is fucking venomous. It feels like a leftover piece from their first record’s sessions but was further developed before being jacked up on roids, what with it’s screeching guitar leads, rapid-fire drumming and Brent Mills unflinchingly screaming “they hang from the ceiling” over and over at one utterly frenzied point. The jagged ‘Day Is Gone‘ has the pacing and the heart of ‘New Junk Aesthetic‘ bleeding over into the oppressively heavier sound of ‘Wrongdoers‘, which is a dynamic I love thoroughly and it makes the song all the better for it. The spazzed out wailing riffs, stomping rhythms, speedier pace, and throaty roars of the album’s shortest piece – ‘Broadcast Network’ – barely relinquishes from its opening gallop. And when it does, it’s so the track suddenly resolves with a finale of eerie guitar chords placed underneath a crooning vocal delivery that’d make Jason Butler very proud.
Among these eight awesome tracks, I’d argue that the two core songs are the sibling pieces of ‘Echo and Dust’, with the split-up pair arriving early on an at the very end of the record respectively. Both songs are Greyhaven at sonically their lightest and heaviest, musically at their most varied, and lyrically at their most poignant about the wider world, politics, life, death and the many experiences in-between those points. ‘Pt. I’ is like a dire early warning of the forthcoming apocalypse, whereas ‘pt. II’ is the devastating realisation that that once dreaded doomsday is now right at your doorstep. Both segments are just stellar songwriting showcases of the group’s flowing dynamic between their calmer, darker but no less moody atmospheres and their “chaotically controlled” heavy sections that punch you right in the dick; a skilful energy they excel scarily well at too.
Other than ‘Empty Black‘ containing really sick songs that burrow right into you, what elevates it up beyond the lowly dregs and the average rung of this scene are the individual idiosyncrasies of Greyhaven and their strong use of ornamentation throughout. It’s the dense playing and chugging metal bass tones of bassist Johnny Muench. It’s the dynamic inflections and eccentric vocal flares from Mills; whether he’s channelling thick American accents, jumping around different notes, contorting his voice down into these guttural grows, screaming his head off in much higher pitches, or bringing you in with intimate cleans and soft vocalizations. It’s Nick Spencer’s varied guitar performances and pedal shenanigans; from his tendency for creepy reverberant chords, occasionally tapped-out parts, slick tech-riffs that cut like lasers through steal, dissonant intervals, phased-out melodies, angular riffing, and fast chugging. And it’s the exceptionally proficient moments of explosive drum runs, avalanche fills and perfectly placed accentuated notes from powerhouse timekeeper, Ethan Spray.
With all that in mind, I’d take an educated guess and say that due to Greyhaven’s influences and the kind of bands they listen to based on the music they make, they definitely understand their sound and where they stand within their wider genre too. Thus when creating this LP they knew exactly how long this record needed to be, how it needed to be paced out, which specific elements to amplify so as to not regurgitate ‘Cult America‘ or another release too much, and how to actually stand out from the crowd. Which is exactly what ‘Empty Black‘ is: an outlier release that you need to hear.
‘Empty Black’ is Greyhaven’s biggest and loudest statement as a band yet. These ten songs make up one of the most attention-grabbing heavy releases from a newcomer group of 2018 so far. Be sure to pay close attention to one of the most promising up and coming American acts in years, for the Greyhaven elevator has just stopped at the ground floor, and this is the best time for you to jump on.
- Sweet Machine
- Echo and Dust pt.1
- Mortality Rate
- Ten Dogs – Red Heaven
- White Lighters
- Kappa (River Child)
- Day Is Gone
- Broadcast Network
- Echo and Dust pt. II
‘Empty Black’ is out this Friday, March 16th via Equal Vision Records.