Limbs with a blisteringly good debut LP.
This decade's "post-hardcore revival" is going mightily strong with bands like The Ongoing Concept, Dance Gavin Dance, Being As An Ocean and Aussie's like Belle Haven and Hellions are just some of the bands carrying the torch forwards. Oh, and there was some album earlier in this month from some band called Underoath. With a genre so intrinsically tied to specific time periods of the last decade, for bands to keep making music that is both relevant and fresh beyond cashing in on nostalgia, there really needs to be something fresher and more fascinating from a band in order to leave their mark on the genre in a meaningful way. Because God knows that we’ve all heard more than enough 'They’re Only Chasing Safety' knock-offs.
Now enter Tampa Bay post-hardcore quintet Limbs, with their UNFD debut and their first full-length album release overall, 'Father’s Son'. Before anything is said about this record, let it be known that it is damned good. I was completely knocked over by the quality on display here, especially given that Limbs have never put together a full-length record before this. Seriously, get on this band if you’ve never heard of them before (I admittedly hadn’t until I was sent the album early for this here review).
Described by Limbs vocalist Chris Costanza sonically as “Norma Jean meets Radiohead”, theme-wise, 'Father’s Son' is “loosely based off of some of my own personal experiences and feelings… It begins with the young man feeling distraught and angry after coming to some realisations about his upbringing and the harm it has done to both himself and others. It slowly turns inward as he reflects on himself and takes personal responsibility for his actions and deals with the aftermath of making such a drastic change in his life.” While not strictly a concept album, it has the conceptual tightness and richness of their cited influence Radiohead’s 'Kid A' (which is their masterpiece, fight me) or even 'OK Computer'. All with the personality and emotion of the record's core narrative orbiting around family, fatherhood, one's upbringing and how that all affects a person as a grown individual.
While obviously not an essential part of any competent album, this does give Limbs debut LP and its lyrical content a real sense of momentum and purpose, and by extension, immediately lengthens the number of listens needed to fully process this record. This can often be a drag when the music itself doesn’t fully support the ambition of the lyrics, but at no stage during my own explorations of 'Father’s Son' did I feel let down nor bored by these powerful musical compositions.
[caption id="attachment_1102096" align="aligncenter" width="760"] Limbs, 2018. PC: Elio Marini.[/caption]
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Costanza doesn’t throw around either of the band’s main influences - Radiohead and Norma Jean - on 'Father’s Son' lightly, either. While it's sure to raise a few eyebrows, the Radiohead namedrop is more than appropriate. Moments during tracks like 'Twelve Stones' and 'Sacrament' could've been ripped straight out of some of Radiohead’s earlier work, borrowing those eerier chord progressions and isolated, lonely lyricism. It’s one thing to borrow from your idols and quite another to take your influences and create something fresh with it, something that Limbs inherently achieves on 'Father's Son'. As they manage to accomplish this effortlessly and have produced one of the more almost-original and interesting sounding post-hardcore albums in years.
It’s not just tracks like 'Sacrament' that nail this, for at a deeper level it 's the songs that apply those harmonic sensibilities to their post-hardcore roots: the Norma Jean side of the band's proverbial coin. By itself the Norma Jean yin to the Radiohead yang is unquestionably the more derivative side of said coin, but once those two worlds meet it results in absolute brilliance. It reminds me of albums like Norma Jean's 'Polar Similar' that dipped into the bluegrass and deep south vibes, or Underoath’s 'Lost In The Sound Of Separation' that seemed to open a door into another whole dimension, in that not only does it show Limbs branching out into territory not normally covered in their established genre, but taking those elements and uncovering newish corners for their music to exist in. I can’t think of any other recent album that has combined these two music worlds quite as well. (Hail The Sun and A Lot Like Birds have done very similar things in their more prog-orientated spheres, though).
Another area 'Father’s Son' excels is in the production. The band have made a conscious choice to make “this full-length less tight/less edited", for as their frontman also put it: "I’m tired of hearing bands sound like they came out of a computer. Tired of hearing drums that sound so perfect that no human could play them. I want to hear the feeling and musicianship come back to a genre that’s been overproduced to hell.” Costanza’s sentiments there ring true across this new record, which puts you right in the hot seat in the studio with the band. Not a collection of squeaky clean perfect performances, but rather five musicians playing off each other and performing music in a legitimate way and also having something to say.
This is something that, much like Costanza stated, is sorely missing from not just this genre of music, but music in general, and it's incredibly refreshing, exciting and very gratifying to be able to listen to something like this that didn't assume everything needed to be perfect and tied up in a neat little bow for it work. Major credit goes not only to the band but also Underoath’s Tim McTague for his work in pre-production for 'Father's Son', as well as producer Beau Burchell (Saosin's guitarist), which is the same team behind the band’s 2017 EP, 'Sleep'. It’s only fitting that such a driving and introspective yet deliberate album sounds as raw and as warm as it does. Depending on the fan this decision may be an issue – trends develop for a reason – yet for me, it truly became part of the character of an already sparkling record.
This debut full-length from Limbs is like a full-blown revelation, and it comes as no surprise to me that they will soon be departing on a tour with Underoath shortly. 'Father's Son' is heavy, noisy, beautiful, eerie, cinematic and dense, and is no doubt a great debut! Having to constantly remind oneself that this is only their debut can only be a good thing, and the fact that it’s only onwards and upwards from here for Limbs is a very exciting prospect.
'Father's Son' is out Friday, April 27th via UNFD.