Seldom does an artist successfully translate the high level of passion and energy they exude when practicing or performing live onto their recorded work. Something is often lost in the recording process, just a vibe that does not translate well. It is a problem that has been successfully overcome by one Chicago area outfit. Introduce yourself to Dolorous Canter. Their high energy blend of hardcore with emotionally driven melancholia is an incredible fusion resulting in a truly outstanding aural experience. The slow moving, lingering opening to “Just Words” is deceiving, as it explodes into a noisy explosion or searing riffs and passionate vocal work. Taking a look at its poignant lyrical poetry (“These dreams / that I have / don’t mean a thing / and someday / I’ll find one / that gives me what I need”), it is clear that sincerity and honesty are qualities they regard very highly. And it is with this honesty that the listener can truly hear and feel their level of passion successfully translated into recorded work.
Some will call this ‘screamo’ while others will brand it as emotional hardcore – one can compare them to the likes of Hot Cross, Joshua Fit for Battle and The Red Scare, but while Dolorous Canter may have their influences firmly in tow, their strongest quality is their unabashed, commanding characters of the four individuals that come together to make one distinct sound. The 6 minute opus that is “Policy” is a crazy mix of loud guitars, melodic screaming and rhythms that both frantic and beautifully moving at the same time. They follow it up with the personally revealing “Monyet Kotor” (if you translate that into Indonesian, it says “Dirty Monkey” but I’m not sure if that’s what the band is going for here), that according to the band is “about how one event can change everything. In one second the whole world can come crashing down, and no matter how hard you try to get past it, you can never regain what you once had.” It is perhaps the most moving track of this EP – equipped with stellar guitars, grinding drums and bass, it is both loud and earth shattering at times while it lapses into quiet, subdued refrain for brief moments. It is highlighted by the throaty screaming of the powerful line – “my kingdom’s under fire”.
In 28 minutes and 2 seconds, Dolorous Canter takes you on a musical passage that can be best described in one word – ‘epic’. It is grand, loud, powerful, moving, emotional and most importantly, sincere and honest. Reading lines from the booklet, it clearly states – “the term ’emo’ originally stood for emotional hardcore and Dolorous Canter is an emotional hardcore band.” This EP comes with a well put together red cover booklet (adorned with lyrics and so much more) in a plastic cover that gives a very DIY, vinyl feel to it. 2002 has seen very few finer than The Alpha Project EP.
Crossed Keys – Saviors
Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds
Philadelphia’s Crossed Keys are an interesting intersection between melodic hardcore and punk, taking an earnest approach to the sound that made its way from the underground in the late 90s and early 2000s. This relatively new outfit is the result of Kid Dynamite and Samiam in a blender- in the best way possible. The Kid Dynamite influence may be a given since Crossed Eyes features KD’s drummer Dave Wagenschutz, but the band’s pedigree also includes members of bands like Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer and The Curse, all backing the melancholic vocal work of frontman Joshua Alvarez (Halo of Snakes). So while Crossed Keys are somewhat new, its members have been cutting their teeth within their respective circles for years, and their new EP Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds.
Saviors is backboned by the furious urgency and energy that Kid Dynamite showed through their history, but while Jason Shevchuk’s vocals were beautifully abrasive, Alvarez takes a more restrained, wistful approach to singing. Songs like the opening “Times of Grace” are musically up-tempo percussions and razor-sharp guitars, but are buoyed by Alvarez’s more melodic vocals. His vocals rest at a good place between Samiam’s Jason Beebout and that NYHC tone exhibited by bands like Token Entry and Grey Area. In songs like “R.J.A” and the closing title track, Crossed Keys find more success with their brand of blistering speed meets harmony- slowing down only for the kind of melancholic punk that made Samiam a noted name. While much of Saviors is built on pace, it wasn’t always this way for the band. In fact, their 2017 EP, I’m Just Happy That You’re Here, leans closer to Samiam than it does to Kid Dynamite (the song “Jeff Pelly vs. The Empire” is particularly fantastic), so there’s been an uptick of urgency with Saviors.
For fans of any of the aforementioned bands here, there is plenty to like with Crossed Keys and plenty to like in Saviors. It’s succinct, to the point, but filled with ample reflection and exploration that gives the EP depth and resonance. Any band that has found influence from Kid Dynamite is most certainly OK by us (this site is named after a KD song after all), but Crossed Keys does more than just tip their cap. This one’s a really good one, and worth your time.
Every last time: Revisiting Gameface’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”
A glorious sound of a time gone by
Southern California’s Gameface were always a band that seemed perfect just below the cusp. Their brand of pop-tinged punk was somewhere in between the melancholy driven emo of the early 1990s to what would become of radio-friendly punk bands evolving from the Jimmy Eat Worlds of the… world.
I loved this band. It was songs like “My Star” and “When You’ve Had Enough” that captured my attention. They didn’t fit in with the punk explosion of the mid-90s and had more melodic chops than those that remained in the underground with bands like Quicksand and Texas is the Reason (the latter being the most musically similar).
To this day, I count their track “How Far Is Goodbye?” as one I can listen to on any given day and still feel the same way about it as I did years ago. It’s a glorious sound of a time gone by, and Jeff Caudill, who has been the backbone of their songwriting since the beginning, has still got the chops his ilk can only dream of. There’s a tinge of melancholy that conjures up a certain sadness, a scene in a movie where the protagonist is making their exit into the distance as the scene closes. Something about the song, the sentiment, and the lyrics that always reminds of driving away while looking at the rear view mirror.
Five years ago Gameface released a new album, Now Is What Matters, an album that perfectly encapsulated their ability to write with emotion, melody, and magnetism that only a select few seem to possess. I interviewed frontman Jeff Caudill before the album came out to chat about the band, an interview I think still holds up. Caudill has been busy since then with a lot of solo material, while the band themselves have been releasing music sporadically (mostly singles) since 2014.
While their catalog is deep, there’s one song I keep coming back to, and that’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”. Originally released on the split 10″ vinyl with Errortype: 11 in 2000, the song received an update in 2018, which you can hear below.
Gameface photo from Gameface facebook page.