Riffs > breakdowns.
Oh, the joy of hearing metalcore and post-hardcore that moves away from the death-grips of 2009!
You may have noticed that over here at KYS, we have a lack of patience - to put it politely - for these kinds of bands of late (yes, the 2016 non-ARIA winners themselves), as well as other such incredibly derivative, generic acts; the ones that would have once graced the 2pm timeslots in the days of Soundwave. In a world where any artist has more access to their own recording and writing devices than ever before, it simply baffles me that some bands would gleefully continue to retreat within the same old verse-chorus-breakdown-chorus-slow-breakdown formulae, with the same old instrumental ideas no less.
This is where ‘Mesma’ (no, not 'Mesmer') the debut record from Greyscale's new kids on the block, Deadlights, enters the fray.
Now, not every band can or should be expected to knock things out of the park on their debut effort, and the 12-track offering that is ‘Mesma’ certainly isn’t a groundbreaking release. Yet from the opening riffs of the album's opening ripper, ‘Order Without Order’, it’s obvious that these guys are keen to do things slightly differently, albeit in a simpler yet still effective fashion. Gone are those unnecessary synth parts, gone are those irritating harmonics, and gone are those somewhat over-complicated, almost-algebraic rhythmic ideas that have helped define the careers of some acts and plagued others of the modern era.
For on 'Mesma', excluding some familiar conventions such as their chorus deliveries, this Brisbane band brings back rock-solid riffs, darker-tinged melodies, engaging songwriting, and well-used, heavy-hitting grooves to this weary style. While those previously mentioned "issues" do affect some songs, notably ‘Everything All At Once’, things never seem dropped in for the pure sake of being technical nor is anything acting as mere filler here.
[caption id="attachment_1091413" align="alignnone" width="760"] Fun fact: 'Mesma' is actually named after Franz Anton Mesmer, the father of what would become hypnosis. Which also explains the hypnotic swirl behind the band in their current promo photo. The more you know.[/caption]
As seems to be the trend for Greyscale Records' signees and their eventual releases, there is a youthful energy to not only the songs but also the many riffs and sounds housed within them, and it's this that makes ‘Mesma’ a solid listen! (Something we here also highly anticipate from the new Belle Haven and Justice For The Damned albums - whenever that one finally drops.)
Early cut ‘The Mad Scientist’ relies on the vocal prowess of bassist Sean Prior with some simple yet catchy vocal work, whilst my own personal favourite ‘Invisible Hands’ is carried by a strong half-time groove and thick guitar arrangement. This lead single shows that Deadlights don’t need waterfalls of reverb or ridiculous levels of guitar layers to create a striking atmosphere; a move evoking strong motifs of the likes of Underoath and Norma Jean.
The likes of ‘Preconceptions’, the aggressive 'Wavelengths', and the slightly cheesily titled yet strong hitter ‘Attitude & Longitude’ forego any need for dynamic control and throw slab after slab of heaviness in the listeners face, all lead by the commanding screams of frontman Dylan Davidson. Admittedly, this constant full-throttle approach does grow somewhat wearisome as the record moves forward, with later tracks like ‘Backwash’ and the re-recorded version of their anthemic 2013 song ‘Know Hope’ traversing similar grounds that were strongly and thoroughly covered in the record's first half. Diversity is an area that Deadlights would do very well to grow in for future releases but a song like the slower, dynamic and uplifting late game entry of 'The Translator' shows they can definitely achieve such diversity.
Despite these small setbacks, ‘Mesma’ is still a very fun, energetic and solid debut from a band that have found a way to create a different spin on a musically well-flogged dead horse. Having shared the stage with the likes of Dance Gavin Dance, Confession and Every Time I Die, these young men have clearly learnt from some of the veterans of the metalcore/post-hardcore worlds and have begun to carve out their own sound.
Indeed, I could only count the number of reverse snare hits on just one hand with this record - a remarkable feat for a young band in this genre!
Deadlights prove that sometimes simply having a good riff, a catchy melody and an aggressive delivery is all you need to create a killer song. As with any band, it's the process of constantly writing and releasing music which sees groups growing for the better (well, you'd hope so, at least), and I have no doubt that through that very process, this debut LP is the start of a potentially great future for Deadlights. Yes, there isn't really anything on 'Mesma' that hasn't already been done before. And while these 12 tracks may begin to feel stale towards the end for some (myself included admittedly), they overall hold together as a strong, enjoyable debut record that, at times, is a real breath of fresh air in a highly polluted scene.
1. Order Without Order
2. The Mad Scientist
5. Everything At Once
6. Attitude & Longitude
7. Invisible Hands
10. The Translator
12. The Shapeshifter
'Mesma' is out April 21st via Greyscale Records. You can pre-order it here. ["For real, how good is 'Attitude & Longitude' though?! - Ed"]