For Fans Of
Bands like Sanction and Wristmeetrazor (who just dropped a decent, if kinda forgettable LP excluding the stronger Side-B) are leading the revivalist charge for late 90’s and early 2000’s metalcore of late; of past bands like The Blood Brothers, Heavy Heavy Low Low, The Locust, early Drop Dead, Gorgeous, and more. Even mighty stalwarts like Vein fall into this ever-widening category, too. That later-day Myspace-era of underground heavy music is really experiencing a resurgence, and if you think it’s frequent now, just give it another ten or so years and it’ll be in full fuckin’ swing. Yet another band that’s making waves for nailing such a sound, but also feeling like a breath of fresh air for these styles, is Californian “sasscore” act, SeeYouSpaceCowboy. And I’m all about what this band does!
Sporadic rhythms lash out with real grit and more numbers than a math-test. Breakdowns that are as heavy as they are brief solidly rumble away throughout. Panicked, chaos-driven guitar riffs spike up and down amidst screeching pinches and harsh feedback. And vocalist Connie Sgarbossa’s intensive, piercing screams insert themselves between her low growls and sassy, half-sung/half-spoken vocals; giving the outfit’s music a true sense of character and personality. In short, there’s just so much going on with this band’s sound; there’s always a high level of bedlam that their songs explode into that it’s hard to not take notice and let it enfold you. It’s just straight-up old-school, mathy metalcore from within the last two decades, yet written and viewed through the lens of the present. Which lends the work of SeeYouSpaceCowboy such an added edge, an added sense of urgency; one that’s so engaging to listen to and so much fun to lose yourself within.
You see those aforementioned songwriting elements featured across this LP’s 13 tracks, neatly packed into it’s barely 20-minute run-time. Which makes the band’s small dynamic surprises and instrumental twists that much more interesting. The playful guitar licks and back-and-forths during the second half of ‘Stop Calling Us Screamo‘? Those cheeky hand-claps right after the intro of ‘Pep Talk From A Nihilist‘? The cleaner tones and gang vocals during the melodic mid-section of ‘Fashion Statements Of The Socially Aware‘? Or that arresting horror-movie-esque scream that begins ‘Absolutely Absolute Absolution‘? All awesome proof in the pudding. It’s never anything that eclectic, but these parts do spruce up ‘Songs For The Firing Squad‘ with just enough added subtle flavours.
Of course, SYSC also love to cash their chips in on their wild, frenzied sound. Opener ‘911 Call: “Help I’ve Overdosed On Philosophy!”‘ begins with reeking feedback before a flurried riff springs them forward into alarming chords and blasting drums. All as heavy vocal roars of “I never forget” push the musical havoc forward. It’s confrontational, mayhem-inducing stuff! Then, with a 4/4 snare count in, the ironically titled ‘Self Help Specialist Ends Own Life‘ gets super riffy and jumpy as the four-piece swagger through a dissonant banger, with a firm declaration about flawed belief systems: “no god is a shackle worth saving/this is the deicide of dogma“. Those last 25 seconds are discordant bliss; one of my favourite sections of music for 2019. (Yes, I know it’s only early February, shut up.)
However, there are two small bones I’ve gotta pick with SeeYouSpaceCowboy’s label debut. While both of the following points are indeed tiny drops in the ocean when compared with the overall quality of ‘Songs For The Firing Squad‘, they’re splashes I feel are worth mentioning. So let’s pick at ’em.
Firstly, technically speaking, only two of these 13 tracks are new. ‘911 Call: “Help I’ve Overdosed On Philosophy!”‘ and ‘Self Help Specialist Ends Own Life‘ are the only two legitimately brand new songs on offer. As all of the remaining tracks come from their three prior releases. Meaning we get all six tracks from 2017’s killer ‘Fashion Statements of the Socially Aware‘ EP, the mentally wailing sounds of ‘Atrocities From A Story Book Perspective‘, and the four savage, noisy cuts from their 2018 split with Second Grade Knife Fight. (These fuckin’ band names, man, I swear.) All great releases, yes, but I already have them. I’ve already heard them and I was hoping for proper new material. Is that selfish? Maybe, but from a consumer perspective, and unless you’ve just discovered SYSC, there’s not a huge incentive to rush out and pick this compilation up. While I understand this is a celebration of being on Pure Noise Records and a time fill, providing them a solid stepping-stone for touring, the lack of any other new material slightly holds it back. This approach isn’t anything unique to SYSC. It’s a similar situation regarding the new label debut from Year Of The Knife, ‘Ultimate Aggression‘: one new song and their two previous EP’s pooled together.
Secondly, very little has changed with the older songs sonically. After some comparative listens, there doesn’t seem to be any improvement on the production side of things. It doesn’t feel or sound like anything from the past got a re-mix or even a re-master. This honestly feels like a missed opportunity to give SYSC’s earlier work a fresh coat of paint. That’s not to say that this record is miss-matched in terms of it’s actual sound – it’s not. But with no new takes on the sonics of the old works that made the cut, this compilation just doesn’t quite feel like the full, grand release that was expected of SYSC. (That release will no doubt come in time, though.)
While I do wish there wasn’t just two new songs present, and that there was some kind of re-mix or re-master treatment given to the older songs, I’ll honestly take any excuse to include all of SeeYouSpaceCowboy’s material in my end-of-year lists for 2019. As a whole, ‘Songs From The Firing Squad’ is just such a well-written and deeply satisfying metalcore/math-core release; one that’s as solid as it is short. 2019 may very well be “twenty-nine-scene”, but SYSC just made 2009 sound fresher and more exciting than ever before. Also, a band can’t really go wrong with a great Cowboy Bebop reference like this for their moniker either.
1. 911 Call: “Help I’ve Overdosed On Philosophy!”
2. Self Help Specialist Ends Own Life
3. I Am A Trans-Continental Railroad, Please Run A Train On Me
4. Stop Calling Us Screamo
5. You Don’t Understand The Liquor Is Calling The Shots Now Randy BoBandy
6. You Can’t Get Goose Justice In Fox Court, Just Spit On The Judge
7. Atrocities From A Story Book Perspective
8. An Introduction For People Who Hate Introductions
9. Jimmy Buffett Doesn’t Even Surf
10. Soap Opera Stardom Is A Single Is A Single Tear Drop Away
11. Pep Talk From A Nihilist
12. Fashion Statements Of The Socially Aware
13. Absolutely Absolute Absolution
‘Songs For The Firing Squad’ is out now via Pure Noise Records.
Regarding SYSC’s recent controversy, they removed their short-term touring bassist, Andrew Milam (ex-Artorias), who was not an official member and who also didn’t play on any releases, once they learnt of the rape allegations against him. From what I’ve seen, they didn’t sweep it under the rug, they addressed it as quick as they could, and did what they could given the serious circumstances. It does suck seeing the band being crucified for trying to do the right thing, though. With them being on Pure Noise Records, it’s likely they’ve been told to not say anything further on the matter too. Until I learn otherwise, I currently have no problem covering SYSC on KYS. Just being upfront. Happy to talk with any and all about it below.