Surroundings – Glass Heart


Artist

Album

Glass Heart

Label

Independent

Year

2019

For Fans Of

Invent, Animate, Erra, Northlane

Summary

Riffy metalcore that comes with a heart.

Rating

72 / 100

Perth metalcore darlings, Surroundings, returned with ‘Glass Heart‘ this month, their first full-length album since 2014’s solid ‘Of Bane, Burden & Change‘. While it has been a long time between drinks, there are zero signs of any cobwebs that need dusting off here. Operating in a vein of melodic metalcore that is going through a significant purple patch at the moment means that it would be easy to simply rehash the same musical ideas as everyone else. Yet what Surroundings have done here on ‘Glass Heart‘ is manage to exist in that very world whilst also maintaining their own strong identity throughout. Which is absolutely no easy feat.

The first major positive of their sophomore is the layered guitar work from Drew and Leigh Kendell. Look, I’m a sucker for catchy yet also heavy riffs, and the way these two guys work their way around the fret board in-tandem is very impressive. Not only do they show off their serious chops on the extended range guitar, but it never once comes at the expense of any given song; something that a lot of bands like this often fall short at for me personally. As a guitarist myself, I can listen to this album and really get immersed in the riffs; compelled to sit down and properly figure them all out. However, these eleven tracks also cater to those who just want good songs too. And they nail that. That is a tricky balance to find, but Surroundings have it down pat here. with LP #2. ‘End As Ashes‘ is a great example of this, with plenty of bad-ass riffs firing off that never distract from the overall song.

I was also left gob-smacked by the performance and output vocalist Nick Roberts, a driving force behind this album’s creation and theme. There is this undeniable sense of personality and life in his performance across the board. It’s also clear he’s really under-gone singing lessons and has grown as a vocalist in many ways over the years. As he nimbly and smoothly traverses between hardcore yells, high-pitched screams, clean singing, the occasional earth-shattering low, and then everything else in between. I’m always impressed by anyone vocalist has the ability to master both screaming and singing, just given the breathing and tonal control it takes, and Roberts makes it sound so goddamn effortless here. Of course it doesn’t come easy, and our track-by-track feature on the WA band and this new record shows great insight into what it took for him to be able to perform a song like ‘The River’s Edge‘ to the standard that the band wished for and required.

Lyrically, the album covers a lot of topical ground – from introspective to political and philosophical – which isn’t that surprising when you think about how long it has been in between releases for the Perth band. Roberts goes into great detail on the aforementioned track-by-track, but there are some genuinely cathartic and emotionally resonant moments on ‘Glass Heart‘. Take for example the title track that nicely rounds out the album, or the high-emotional factors of ‘Burnt Pages‘. Oh, and the entirety of ‘March‘. There is genuine emotion and passion in the vocal performances behind these lyrics, which lifts the record above a large number of other by-the-books heavy records; confirming that when Roberts screams “no matter how many hours I stare into the sun/I’ll never know the true extent of what’s been said and done” he truly means what he says. That conviction is what helps to flow real life-blood through this record’s solid, glass heart.

Like almost every metalcore album ever, there are definitely times when I was struck by a heavy sense of deja-vu. But once you start listening to too of this style of heavy music, that’s to be expected. Yet like I said earlier, there is more than enough of Surroundings‘ own personality and character to this album that it honestly doesn’t seem to matter. It’s satisfying; a combination of strong storytelling and catchy, heavy riffs form the solid backbone of this record. Thus providing a strong base from which the band can out stretch their crystal wings out into slightly more experimental territory.

Unfortunately, this is also where the records falters slightly for me, with tracks like ‘The River’s Edge‘ (which takes a more straightforward rock approach) and ‘Burnt Pages‘ straying just a little too far from the album’s core sound to feel entirely at home. Despite the panicked pinches, blast beats, and goddamn huge breakdown heard on ‘Burnt Pages‘ halfway through. While they’re not at all bad songs – I actually dig ‘Burnt Pages‘ really hard – they do disrupt the record’s flow with their somewhat drastic directional shifts. It’s  impressive to witness a band at this stage in their lifespan, attempting to tackle such a wide-array of sounds in what is only their second full-length. So credit must be given where it’s indeed due. But in the context of this Surroundings album, there’s some whiplash felt when jumping from a post-rock sounding major-key track into something right off an Invent, Animate LP.

Conclusion

Surroundings definitely deserve your attention, particularly if you’re into this vibe of metalcore. On ‘Glass Heart’, there is everything that we like about metalcore at the moment – tasty guitar riffs, huge breakdowns with ambient guitars in the background, and a strong sense of story. However, here there is a healthy dose of individuality to always remind you who you’re listening to. There’s no shortage of ambitious songwriting and composition, and a very strong personality to latch onto in the form of the grand performance from vocalist Nick Roberts. If the band continues on the upward trajectory they’re now on, they’re most definitely ones to watch and then some. Count me in for any national tour that might be in the works!

Tracklisting

  1. Clarity, Decay
  2. Paper Cranes
  3. Chronesthesia
  4. The River’s Edge
  5. End As Ashes
  6. Jane
  7. Slaves
  8. Burnt Pages
  9. March
  10. Elizabeth
  11. Glass Heart

‘Glass Heart’ is out now!

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