Hardcore punk isn’t what it used to be. Long gone the times when the snare ruled with its hasty, near-constant beat, ruled by the dominating, politically-charged lyrics of a raging throat. The genre’s evolution, most notably with the incorporation of notions stemming from emo’s trademark sound from the 90’s, has brought about subtle variations in the range of emotions communicated lyrically, vocally and instrumentally within the genre’s signature aggressiveness and a more eloquent musical grammar, consequently opening songwriting possibilities by refusing to resort to a unique set of conventions.
Landscapes’ debut album ‘Life Gone Wrong’ is the bright result of a UK-version of these welcome changes (in the United States the alterations are rooted somewhat earlier in time, see the tremendous albums of Defeater). As one would expect, for the most part, Landscapes deliver the fragile balance between crashing rhythm guitars and the clean melodies of the leads, fired along by the haunting pounding of the drums in the vein of many a hardcore punk band. ‘Cemetary’, ‘No Love’ and ‘Epilogy’ are particularly strong examples of that aspect of their style, with the second arguably the selection’s lyrical highlight. Unwavering, packing a punch with melodic veins, they should (and will certainly) always constitute the backbone of such a band.
Yet then, at the album’s halfway mark, the band really turn up with some, quite simply, sensational stuff. ‘Providence’ atmospheric opening gives way to echoey licks and thumping drums, with Shauny Milton’s a focal point here as he drones through an unlikely climax and closes a fine track. ‘Forgiveness’ crawls into even darker territory with the sparse, cold arrangement giving the instrumental track (but for a well-chosen emotional soundbite from Aronosfky’s ‘The Wrestler’) a surprisingly eerie quality. The track even benefits from the contrastupheld by the placing of ‘Epilogy’ immediately afterwards, as both showcase intensity in very different ways.
As a closer, ‘Paradox’ is a perfect choice since its own division between the aggressive side of hardcore punk and its more thoughtful and inwards emanations echoes the similar structure of the album. ‘Life Gone Wrong’ is a very strong debut in which Landscapes display an effortless versatility that doesn’t compromise the focus and identity of the album as a whole. If anything, it is an acknowledgment of the positive changes they’ve made since their 2010 EP ‘Reminiscence’.
‘Life Gone Wrong’ by Landscapes is available now on City of Gold Records.
Words by James Berclaz-Lewis