Metalcore is as metalcore does.
At the very high-risk of rendering the rest of my review completely null with this opening sentence, 'The Place I Feel Safest' - the debut album from U.S. newcomers, Currents - is an outrageously derivative metalcore record in terms of instrumentals, production, and overall musicality.
'The Place I Feel Safest' is at its very core a heavy, punchy and overly aggressive metalcore record, but one that's also just a mere meat and potatoes release for this copycat-like genre. On their latest effort, Currents do one thing and one thing only, and that's writing slightly above average yet still ultimately generic metalcore. From the atmospheric guitars over the chugging foray to the over-abundance of high-gated riffs, "fiddly-widdly" parts and tonally clean licks; from the bland metalcore song structures, the usual halftime breakdowns and double time hardcore sections, the syncopated rhythmic formulas unashamedly used on nearly every single goddamn song; to the double or even tripled-tracked screams and growls or the occasional clean vocal moments thrown in to help break their heavier counterparts up - this album is so metalcore it physically hurts. But hey, at least they didn't use any audible glass breaking samples.
Admittedly, I've heard a lot worse come from the genre of late - such as Ocean Sleeper, Kings, Varials, Memphis May Fire, to name a few awfully egregious examples. However, I've also heard better, far more interesting examples of what metalcore can accomplish these days, such as Architects, August Burns Red, Silent Planet, or even Oceans Ate Alaska's newest record, which changed things up with a lush Japanese-flavour. Of course, don't expect any bucking of genre trends for Currents latest, however, as this 13-track record is just fucking exhausting!
Following the virtual instrument orchestration and effects-ridden build-up of the album's opening track, 'Apnea', this Connecticut five-piece waste no time diving straight into heavy breakdowns, bouncy grooves, back-and-forth riffs, viciously pissed-off vocals, and fast palm-muted chugs, all before a very abrupt fade out closes this first track out. After this starting point, and much like Wage War's latest record, Currents debut LP becomes just a mere showcasing of their genre's core conventions and very little else. Which you'll also notice right across 'Withered' and 'Night Terrors', as just two other examples.
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Individually, each of this album's 13 songs are fine; they're decent if simply stock-standard and inoffensive metalcore songs at the end of the day. But as a larger collective, these tunes create a record that has zero to offer or surprise casual or seasoned listeners; not from 'Apnea' nor once you go past the fourth song, 'Delusion'. (And no, bringing in a higher number of clean vocals like on 'Best Memory' or using melodic intros on 'I'm Not Waiting' doesn't fully alleviate this). So much so that only after a half-dozen listens through did I feel like I had extracted every ounce of depth and enjoyment that 'The Place I Feel Safest' could ever hope to offer. I do feel that if this was a shorter EP and not a 13-track long record than we'd (obviously) have a more streamlined effort but also a far more memorable release on our hands. As much of a prick as it'll make me sound, this album really is just the kind of check-listing-ticking metalcore release that angsty teenagers and edgy early twenty-somethings pit to; the people who attain a release's sole value and merit simply by how good the mosh parts and breakdowns are.
For those listeners, 'The Place I Feel Safest' will more than do the trick, even if longtime fans may still label Currents previous and slightly heavier, more djent-inclined 'Life//Lost' EP as their true peak. (No matter how goddamn cringy the title track was). Yet for other listeners, like yours truly, when there are near-countless bands out there that sound like Currents that I could pick and chose from instead, if there's nothing that eye-catching or ear-perking that makes a band truly stand out, then I won't be sticking around for that long.
The only real saving grace this record has that truly pulls it out of the awful depths are the lyrics. The themes here are about one battling with the very worst that life can throw at you, and in this regard, Currents really strike a chord. For instance, 'Another Life' is a brutal tale of neglect and addiction ("It's hard to be a father when you're always shooting up"), and 'Apnea' - which unless I've misinterpreted it - is a tale of home wrecking abuse and vile sexual assault ("I heard a crash from the bedroom upstairs/you’re screaming out my name/I open the door and know our lives will never be the same/She lays in tears, he’s standing there/Climbed through the window and fled; another life left in ruin."). These lyrics hit-hard and matched with the intense though albeit generic music, it does work, and if the band can find a more engaging, more interesting musical backdrop for such impactful themes, then we'll have a really solid release on our hands. Just quickly, as an extension from the lyrics, and while he isn't doing anything that different, frontman Brian Wille has a near-perfect timbre and delivery for metalcore. A weaker sounding vocalist wouldn't have created that emotional impact needed, and Wille's performance is one of the few things that holds this record up.
With generic metalcore bands like Currents and middle-of-the-road records like 'The Place I Feel Safest', I honestly don't know how much more I can take of this genre these days Think of it like this: in my editor and admin position for KYS, how many bands do you think I've heard in the past year alone that sound similar to these guys? The answer: too fuckin' many! As when a genre like this can become so trite, you either come to hate or love all of it. If not that, then only a handful of bands will really grab your attention, as you inconsistently move through each new release that comes and goes. Right now, I feel like I'm the latter.
3. Night Terrors
7. Forget Me
9. Best Memory
10. Another Life
'The Place I Feel Safest' is out now via SharpTone Records. Pick it up here. I mean, I won't be, but you do you!