Pick Your Rock and Metal

Monday, July 14, 2008

Power and Angst on 'Love, Blood, Family, You'

AT this moment in time there is a burgeoning Northern Ireland rock and metal scene, with more and more bands maturing to a point where they are on the cusp of excellence.

Latest to enter the fray of CD releases is Escape Fails. On July 18th (Friday) they release their début ‘Love, Blood, Family, You’.

Escape Fails have already proven their fervour on the live front, but translating that intensity from a sweat-soaked stage to a platter you can listen to in the comfort of your own living room or to pin yer ears back in the car is always a challenge.

Thankfully EF have managed to largely meet that challenge with a consummate display of songwriting and performance.

At times EF steer a risky path between the metalcore of 36 Crazyfists and post- hardcore á la Fightstar. Throw in a healthy appreciation of power-pop sensibilities and it is a heady mix to try and distil on to a 10-track CD.

Opener ‘Bring Me Down’ is where EF show that they can match riffage with the subtlety. It kicks off with a guitar assault but segues into melody with poise.

‘First to Fall’s hook heavy guitar lines scream single, before ‘In the Arms of a Storm’ swaggers like Killswitch Engage and ‘Crazyfists’ in a drunken brawl about a failed romance outside a Belfast pub.

And here lies in the strength of the album. EF’s influences are clear and present for all to see. They neither hide them nor flaunt them. Rather they incorporate, assimilate those influences and produce a unique blend.

Sometimes that gets a little lost in the cacophony, such as in the all out assault of ‘Dancing in the Fallout’, which doffs a cap at too many other post-hardcore acts in an otherwise excellent work-out. It’s one of the few times the production and arrangement let the proverbial side down, but most newcomers to EF will neither know nor care!

What EF do well here is meld sounds, subtleties that have too often been lost on stage emerge stronger. From the well-arranged ‘Wall’ (familiar already to visitors to their Myspace site) through the poignant ‘Death of Jane Doe’ there is a better appreciation that by matching the arrangement with the lyrical story and the disparate musical parts you can produce a stronger song.

Nowhere is this more evident that on album-closer ‘Flarestar’. Here EF have managed to sum up the tale they tell.

Yes, there are some who will accuse them of singing of the angst of relationships and the hazards of the heart. There is no sense here of bleating, no sense of singing about problems amidst a background of cheery melodies and business-manufactured hairstyles.

As on ‘Brighten the Blackest Sky’s furious chorus scream, ‘Fallstar’ deploys the right tool at the right time. Power can be delivered in clean guitar picking as much as in distorted wailing axes and screamed lyrics.

The entire Escape Fails crew seem to have discovered the ability on ‘Love, Blood, Family and You’ to make sure that power can express angst and that sometimes the angst can best be exorcised with healthy dose of guitar.

Overall a damn fine first foray in the ‘proper’ recorded medium, but as this is after all primarily a metal site, one quick recommendation…more guitar solos please!

Remember – Escape Fails launch the CD at ZAVVI, Victoria Square, Belfast on July 18th at 6pm, with a live performance of tracks that will shake the rafters of the dome and shock more than a few of the permed and preened House of Fraser clientele. Should be a corker!

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