Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Evergreen Terrace - Almost Home Album Review

I'd enjoyed just about everything that Evergreen Terrace had put out in the course of their career, so it was almost a given that I would have a positive view on anything they put out. That was definitely the case with Almost Home. There's a reason I try to avoid reviewing bands that I have any sort of connection to, either positive or negative--no matter how I approach the band I have some pre-conceived notions of what I think of them before even taking on their material. It's hard to avoid bands that have long histories, of course, so when I do tackle a band with history I try to keep my reviews planted within the framework of their career. Weighing their various efforts against each other gives a context that helps, at least to a point, cover up any particular bias that exists. I don't know if this tactic succeeds or not, but it is one I often utilize. For informational purposes, the review below was originally published on August 26, 2009. 

For this review to work, before you go any further, you’re going to have to either agree with the following statement or, at the least, operate under the assumption that you should agree with it: Wolfbiker was not Evergreen Terrace’s best work and was actually, upon repeated listens, a step backwards after Sincerity Is an Easy Disguise in This Business. Wolfbiker was full of energy and had a few solid songs, true, but it really didn’t seem like the band was flexing the right muscles. They excel at mixing together hardcore music, abrasive vocals, and smooth sing-a-longs. They didn’t do enough with the third part of that equation on Wolfbiker, and the album suffered in the end. Almost Home looks to rectify that problem, to a point, as well as show the band beefing up their songwriting skills.

Throughout Almost Home you will feel more of the vibe that was present on Sincerity… than any of the band’s other albums. Along with that vibe, you’ll also hear the band picking up some new techniques that set much of this album apart from what they’ve done in the past and, it should come as no real surprise, puts this album at the pinnacle of Evergreen Terrace’s discography. Setting up the album, “Enemy Sex” shows the band treading through familiar musical fields, but even though they're in the same territory they’ve previously been in, this time around they’ve livened up and thickened their sound. This is also readily apparent as the album moves through the next few tracks. The livening of their sound comes mostly in the way that Craig Chaney and Joshua James handle their guitar-wielding duties. They are branching out beyond the normal melodic hardcore that you’ve heard in the past to include more menacing tones and the occasional guitar solo (something that really adds to songs such as on “Almost Home (III)”).

This album also feels like the band put in a lot more care into writing their songs. On past albums some songs felt underdeveloped or short, but every track on Almost Home feels fully developed, even the quicker raging tracks like “God Rocky, Is This Your Face?” and “The Letdown,” both of which are full-steam ahead, pit-roiling, ear-splitting hardcore tracks. Their songwriting strength really comes into play, however, when you hear some of the more melodically focused tracks. The band is conscious of the need to make the mellow tracks catchy since sing-a-longs just don’t work if they aren’t catchy.

“Hopelessly Hopeless” and “We’re Always Losing Blood” are going to be two tracks that get you to love the melodic side of Evergreen Terrace. These are a couple of melodic hardcore gems which, scarily enough, have some mainstream appeal to them. The main reason why this appeal is there comes from Chaney’s clean vocals. He sounds as smooth and confident as ever while, on the flip side, Carey’s voracious and vicious screams continue to explode during the band’s heavier moments. Losing longtime member Jason Southwell doesn’t seem to have affected the band at all, and allowing some production input didn’t seem to hinder the band either.

Evergreen Terrace has a solid album on their hands with Almost Home. It contains a number of songs that will become live show staples (especially “I’m a Bulletproof Tiger” – this song was made to get a crowd moving) and more than a few songs that will stick with you for days after listening to them. These guys have really hit their stride and appear to be playing at the top of their game. Pick up this album and go see these guys on tour; both will be an utter treat!

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