LP Review; blessthefall: “Hard Feelings”

“Wishful Sinking” starts with an electronic semi-tone that swells quickly to lead the audience into a rapid muffled motive supplied by the string section. This motive seems to simmer at a distance to enhance the anticipation for the start of the track before the percussion section joins the fun with heavy hits on the accented moments of the set motive. As the beginning of the song progresses, the audience hears blurbs of vocals here and there with a growing percussion motive that helps to create the overall pulse of the work. Right before the instrumental ensemble comes together to provide the audience with a major cohesive musically idea, there is split second of almost silence that helps to juxtapose this contrasting musical idea. When the first vocals of the album become present, the vocalist utilizes his clean vocal-type to provide the audience with a small, gentle melodic idea to attach to. As the band moves through the first verse, it is heard that the instrumental dynamics lessen to allow the lyrics to shine. As the band moves towards the chorus of the work, it is noticeable that the band allows the entire instrumental ensemble to elaborate on the set motives for the work while producing and over the top musical moment for the audience. The second verse follows a similar format; however, the second vocalist chimes in more often to allow for a stronger sense of the aggressive sound that the band is known for. Throughout the work, the band bounces back and forth with grooves to keep the audience intrigued, but the bulk of the musical material provided is emphasized through the aggressive vocal type and heavier tracks across the entire instrumental ensemble. As the band moves towards the end of the work, the instrumental ensemble drops down in dynamics to allow the vocals to shine in semi-isolation. As the vocals slowly evolve, the instrumental section slowly morphs, so that the band can spin into an elaborate instrumental breakdown that twists electronics to provide the audience with a completely new breakdown for the band. This is a strong first piece for the album, for it shows the audience the new direction the band is taking, and it still holds true to the blessthefall aesthetic.

 “Find Yourself” starts with a groove from the first downbeat of the work. This groove isn’t directly linked to the instrumental section, for the music seems to derive from the mixture of electronics with support from the instrumental ensemble. This holds firm for a few seconds before the entire instrumental ensemble joins to take the forefront. When this happens, the instrumentals provide a line that walks around step-wise levels that layer to present a thick amount of dimension for the ensemble. Throughout this, the band also includes new semi-tones that resonate with a synthesizer tone color, which gives the audience a new technique presented by the band. The vocals enter almost abruptly. When they do so, the instrumentation drops instantaneously to allow the clean vocals to shine. The vocals that sound follow a gentle melodic contour, which works nicely with the lyrical content that is provided. The chorus of the work isn’t the most exciting, wall to wall, action that the audience will hear; however, as one listens to it, it is heard that the lyrical content is overly catchy, and it will likely sit in the minds of the listeners. The second verse as well as the second run of the chorus is similar to the beginning of the work, which isn’t bad for the band because it’s just backing up the memorable materials. Right after the second chorus, the band spins into an instrumental feature that elaborates the beginning instrumental motive. This is paired nicely with a third verse that fluctuates the audience through different range positions. Following this, the band moves back to the original chorus of the work while messing with the electronic step-wise motives, which helps to give the audience different musical material until the very end of the work.

“Melodramatic” starts with a rapid string motive that establishes the quick tempo of the piece immediately. This sits alone for a brief second before the characteristic vocals of the album enter. When the vocal line enters, the vocalist stays within a fixed realm of pitches to guide the audience through their first melodic concept. The strings and voice duet for only a few more seconds before the percussion section becomes a part of the puzzle by adding a strong structural sediment to the work. Once the percussion section enters, the sound of the overall ensemble builds to slam into the first verse of the work. When this happens, they all come together to drive the groove of the work, which helps to heighten the overall aura of this selection (up to this point). Right before the band reaches the chorus of the work, the instrumentation drops to allow a split second of vocal isolation. This makes the chorus juxtapose the small gesture, which will make it seem even greater than it may or may not be. When the band rides through the chorus, it is heard that they switch to a faint half-time groove, and this helps to give the audience something different while still being elaborate. As the band falls out of the middle of the work and begins to transition to the end, they spin off into an embellished instrumental breakdown that utilizes heavy gestures across all fronts. This helps to produce a heavier sound across the board while giving the listeners something rhythmically and musically interesting. This eventually leads into one of the bigger vocal/instrumental breakdowns of the album where the aggressive vocals get a moment to reign in the limelight. This eventually takes the band back to the original chorus of the work, which will drive to the end.

“Feeling Low” starts with vocals from the very first second of the track. The vocals that sound in this moment follow the same technique as the majority of the instances on the previous selections. In this first second, the vocals are also mixed with electronics to give off an altered, stuttering effect. Underneath the vocal line, the instrumental section provides block chords with some gradual swelling to help shape the musical phrase. This builds until the instrumentation builds to then separate into their own musical ideologies. When this happens, the instrumental ensemble forms motivic ideas that establish the groove of the work while maintaining a progressive, steady pulse. Before the band falls into the first verse, they ride a long instrumental interlude that allows them to experiment with these new tactics. The first verse utilizes an elaborate instrumental background that resonates at a low dynamic, so the vocals can still be present. What is interesting about this is that the vocal line isn’t overly interesting, so having the elaborate instrumentation makes for a solid amount of juxtaposition between the two parts. However, moving to the chorus, the band returns to their mixed ornate nature, which will feel comfortably pleasing to the audience, for that is the sound they’ve become accustomed to. The second verse of the track is very similar to the first, but there are more moments of silence in this verse, which helps to give the listeners moments of musical relief. From here, the band returns to the natural chorus, which is strong for the work as a whole. Towards the end of the selection, the band begins to utilize heavier attacks as they, as a unit, grow to slam into one of (if not the biggest) instrument breakdown of the entire album. This breakdown uses elaborate motion from the band’s instrumentation, their aggressive vocals, and intriguing uses of electronics. Additionally, the band includes a couple split seconds of silence here and there to contrast the heightened nature of the breakdown. This takes the audience back into the chorus of the work, where the piece will eventually conclude. This is a foreseen favorite from the album because it heavily mixes the band’s old and new style while being a fantastic song at its core.

 “Cutthroat” starts with a descending scale that repeats over and over in a string timbre as the percussion sections acts as the backbone through small hits that line up the string’s movement linearly. This helps the audience become secure in the newer, quicker, tempo that the band is presenting for this track. Right before the bulk of the beginning kicks in, the band includes a new vocal timbre of somebody who vocalizes as if they are just talking to one of their good bros. After they finish their message, the band switches to an ornate instrumental feature that mixes tone colors with different electronic semi-tones. Within this breakdown, the strings divert from their scaler technique, for they begin to expand to give the audience different versions of the same musical idea. The first vocals that enter on this piece utilize the aggressive vocal technique. This works well for the band, for throughout the verse, the band uses over the top instrumentation to emphasize certain points of the vocal line, and this is able to resonate with the audience in a punchier fashion with the edgier approach because of this vocal choice. The chorus of the work has the audience fall back into the characteristic sound of the band, which will be well received, for it gives this piece a high sense of contrast. The second verse of the work is severely different than the first, for the clean vocals come in the limelight here and there to juxtapose the aggressive ones immensely. After the band runs through the chorus once more, they include a snippet of the beginning instrumental material. From here, the band spins into a third verse initiated by the second vocalist. This leads the band and the audience into another breakdown that relies on the original groove of the work. After this short-lived breakdown, the band drops in instrumentation to allow the clean vocals to reign in insolation before returning to the chorus to finish things up.

 “I’m Over Being Under(rated)” starts with a semi-tone that quickly evolves and then bursts into a various amount of tiny semi-tones. When the giant musical idea explodes, the semi-tones twinkle together to form a circular effect that gives off a shimmering feeling, musically speaking. This sits with the audience only momentarily before the entire instrumental ensemble joins the party. When the instrumentals drop, the percussion section sets the steady pulse of the work, which will help to drive the general groove throughout. Also, as the percussion remains static, the strings team up with the semi-tones to create a cohesive and innovative motive that will drive the melodic content for the work. When the first vocals of the track enter, the texture drops to allow the clean vocals to reign in isolation. The vocals waver in the lower to middle range of the vocalist. This allows him to pull the audience in to focus on what he is vocalizing, which is made easier by the lack of an exciting instrumental part. When the band shifts to the chorus of the selection, the instrumentals come full circle to give the audience a thicker texture as the vocalist expands on his range: giving the audience a more dynamic vocal line to attach to. As the band spins out of the chorus, they include a quick blurb driven by a half-time groove. Although this isn’t a major contribution to the song, it does give the audience something new, which will keep them engaged. The second verse is much more exciting than the first, speaking in terms of texture, for the band keeps their heightened texture, which works because the vocalist uses a more elaborate vocal range with backup from the second vocalist here and there. As the band leaves the second chorus, they spin into a vocal breakdown that is led by aggressive hits across the entire instrumental ensemble. This specific breakdown utilizes silence to break up the different musical phrases, which is something new for this album. Eventually, the band moves back to the chorus in its traditional form, and that is how the piece will come to its end.

“Sleepless In Phoenix” starts with a faint motive that is led by a piano-type timbre. This motive is conjunct in motion, for the bulk of the materials fluctuate through a step-wise manner with small, held tones present sparingly. This remains by itself only briefly before the clean vocals enter with a gorgeous melodic figure. When the vocals enter, the vocalist gives the audience an effortless melodic line to attach to that follows the simple contour of the natural voice. With this, the instrumental ensemble joins the accompaniment to help the song continuously push forward through its established groove. As the band moves towards the chorus of the work, it is heard that the percussion section begins to intensify their hits as they speed up to form an arrival point at the beginning of the chorus. The chorus of the track isn’t overly exciting, musically speaking; however, the band toys with the timing of the groove as the memorable vocal line glides over top. This works for the band, for the way they are presenting this selection doesn’t call for an over the top instrumentation. The second verse and the second run of the chorus fall in the same format as the beginning of the work. From the second chorus, the band drops the majority of their instrumentation out to allow the lower vocals to reign in isolation as the percussion section varies their motives slightly to keep the content leaning forward. The band includes a small solo vocal line by its lonesome before returning to the final run of the chorus.

“Keep Me Close” starts with a fast-moving electronic motive that blends various pitches together as the percussion section provides the audience with a small melodic figure in the distance, which sets up the foundation for the work. After a few moments of this mysterious introduction, the entire instrumental section slams in with an instrumental interlude where they all embellish on the motive that the percussion section was sounding from the beginning of the work. This interlude helps to set the groove of the piece, and it makes the audience expect an over the top, energetic selection from the very beginning. However, when the band hits the first chorus, the instrumentation drops out to almost nothing as the clean vocalist takes the stage. This was a surprising shift for the track, which will startle the listeners enough to want to keep listening. The vocal line that is presented is rather static, and it is backed up with chordal motion in the instrumentation as the percussion section keeps the groove steady. When the band hits the chorus of the work, all of the instrumentation becomes present, but the instrumental line still follows a simple mold by mainly being used for their harmonic function. The second verse of the work is severely different than the first, for the aggressive vocalist guides the audience into the beginning of it, and he takes the reigns throughout the bulk of it as well. The instrumental section was able to take advantage of this moment, for they are able to gather their simple nature and turn that up with the elevated nature of the second verse. The second run of the chorus falls back to the chorus’ original mold, which provides contrast to the audience compared to the previous verse, but it is still rather lack-luster. The spin off verse takes the vocals in isolation with little to no instrumentation. From here, the band layers the instrumental section to make for a slow and gradual evolution as they make their way to what the audience would assume would be a final run of the chorus; however, the band includes a small snippet led by the aggressive vocals to round out the work.

 “Sakura Blues” starts with a spooky, tonal introduction that is mixed with held out tones that elevate the uncertain musical comfort that the band is providing in this moment. This motive revolves around 5-6 tones that move up and down, but they don’t resolve to a comfortable sound: they just sort of stop. After the listeners experience this for a few moments, the band includes the same motive at a louder tempo as the underlying instrumentation begins to build in intensity. This resolves as it leads the audience directly into a small, over the top instrumental interlude that is based around the different layered subsection that the band has to offer. The band draws the interlude back before the first verse, for the first verse follows the similar format as most on the album, for the instrumentation is minimal and the clean vocals reign overtop the majority of the musical material. Even though this follows a similar format to a lot of other works on this album, this piece has its own identity, for the vocal line finds itself to be on the upper part of the vocalist’s range, which hasn’t been common for this album up until this point. Additionally, he continues to stretch his range lower as he guides the audience through the verse instead of staying on a fixed set of pitches. The chorus includes and elaborate instrumental part that complements the vocal line, for they embellish their melodic line based off the steady pulse the vocal line drives on. The second verse of the work is pretty similar to the first other than the fact that the instrumentation has a strong role, but that may be because the verse is short, and the audience soon returns to the chorus of the work. Right after the second chorus, the band transitions into an instrumental interlude with vocals that become present throughout here and there. This will lead to a small moment of vocal isolation before moving back to the chorus of the selection, which will take the audience to the end.

“Welcome Home” starts with vocals from the very first beat of the work. The vocals that are heard resonate in the lower to middle range of the vocalist. This works well for the audience because the melody that the band seems to be using for this part of the song is identical to the song “The Middle” by Jimmy Eat World, which is backed up by the repetitive string motive as well. This could throw the audience off for several reasons, for it is a different sound for the band, and they are borderline copying a well-known song, but how the band spins off of this is what makes it fantastic. After this verse, the band spins into a major instrumental interlude that takes the vocal melodic idea and places that into the string world. As that simmers there, the instrumental section embellishes the different parts of the melodic line to elongate the notion while keeping the groove of the work steady. The second verse of the work follows a similar mold as the first, but the instrumentals play a more prominent role, especially as the vocalist begins to expand his vocal range to the middle to upper part of it. The second run of the chorus follows its original pair, which works well for the band because the chorus hits home after the second run of it because after the second listen, the ornate nature of the section becomes more apparent to the listeners. After the second chorus, the band immediately evolves into a guitar solo that sounds similar to those found in the alternative or punk genre. This is supported by the bands traditional instrumentation; thus, this shows the audience what else the band has to offer musically speaking while staying in their general, musical, world. After this small interlude, the vocals return faintly as they and the instrumentation bond together to grow to crash back into the catchy chorus of the work. The piece ends with an automated message of a small child saying “I really miss you” this is accompanied by faint chords in the background until the words and music fade to their end. This is a strong final work for the album, but that could be debated. The work is musically dynamic, and it truly represents the new sound that blessthefall has driven home throughout this album; however, some may question the credibility of the work because of how closely related it is to one of the leading selections by Jimmy Eat World.

Final Thoughts: Overall, I would give this album a 4.5 out of 5 stars. I am giving this album such a score for a variety of reasons. The first reason as to why I landed on this score is because from listening to this album, as one moves from track to track, the new sound that blessthefall is aiming for is very strong, and it has a high likability. The other reason I landed on this score is because even though this album won’t resonate with audiences the same way “Awakening” or “Hollow Bodies” did, it still rides the fine line of hardcore and alternative, but it also blends the lines of the two throughout a few works. This gives blessthefall a new creative edge, which makes this album standout. Therefore, if you are hunting for a hardcore album that doesn’t rely on heavy vocals: this is it. Great work!

*”Hard Feelings” was released on March 23, 2018 through Rise Records.

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