Fast and hard hitting finger work, awesome riffs and an intense tone and a country full of angry teenagers in search of a new hardcore band that is as pissed off at the world as they are. Everything fits. The only thing left is an anguished, screaming vocalist to pull the sound together.
The Distance, however, can’t pull it together. Not with these vocals. Like many of the newer heavy bands that have ascended into the public eye, The Distance is dragging the ball and chain of mediocrity. It is the casual acceptance of a bland, monotone lead singer that has held them back in their apotheosis to hardcore heaven. And because of this what would normally be appreciated as a great new sound is overshadowed by the weakness of the screamer at center stage.
What vocalist Jason (no last name) doesn’t seem to realize is that screaming is an art; it requires range and flexibility. It is not the noisy drone he presents. The better part of their songs are made uniform by what seems to be the same set of lyrics put into the music industry‘s bong and passed around to whoever feels like a hit. Lyrics like “I’m living out my numbered days / and on some borrowed time,” so typical of these hardcore-depression bands, lose all meaning in their redundancy throughout the genre. Any emotion they once carried is killed by Jason’s “trying too hard to look like I’m not trying” style. These lyrics, instead of being properly mixed with the classic heavy screams of anguish and anger, are blandly yelled in such a way as to leave audiences wondering whether he is singing for the band, or simply trying to complain loudly over the noise.
If The Distance has strength, it is lead guitarist, Eric (no last name either). What he lacks in originality he makes up in great riffs and nuances that make a good hardcore guitarist. His best attribute perhaps, is his ability to distract the listener for a few seconds from the overwhelming massacre that is the vocals. The Distance proves that no matter how well the other fuses work, if you’ve got a bad one, you’re still stuck in the dark.
In the absence of the emotion that once made hardcore music so intense, we’re left wondering what will happen to the genre. Are the days of the angry band over? Have we passed the time when an artist can be appreciated for his expression through well-toned and timed screams? If this is indeed the end, it is because of the new growth of bands like The Distance, cheap imitators who could never match up to their predecessors. And because of the steadily growing acceptance among music lovers of the slow and tragic demise of the art that used to be vocalism. We can only hope some can stop these vocalists before they crucify both the music they love and the careers of their talented band mates.
(Bridge Nine Records)
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.