A New Hope

Written by: BL on 09/06/2009 15:51:58

It's been 2 years since Vanna sounded this writer's ears with their rather memorable debut "Curses". Calling their new album "A New Hope" (yes like Star Wars), I was wondering if this signaled a change in their sound after long time member and drummer Brandon Davis left the band. If you were familiar with "Curses" then I will be a bearer of perhaps disappointing news that the hard hitting, scathing sound in their debut has been somewhat left tamed and mellowed. While they still retain their Norma Jean/Every Time I Die-esque hardcore tinged metal sound in parts, there is far more post-hardcore presence this time round. Trade some metal in boys, a new hope, and a new direction it seems.

The album still retains that sort of raw, rough around the edges production that gave their debut such a searing sensation on the ears. However much of the power and fury seems to have matured into a more controlled and rather sensible, accessible kind of aggression. For one thing the guitars seem to have lost some real depth to the low end tone and so end up sounding rather thin. The dissonant riffing has turned to more tuneful, almost simplistic hardcore punk chord sections with the occasional sprinkling of technicality. It isn't to say that they don't make an appearance, for example check out the rather hard hitting but short-lived "Trashmouth" where things get down and dirty, very much like Every Time I Die. Similarly on "Sleepwalker" the emphasis is on dissonance and a heavier sound, which actually sounds really good still and I feel such regret that they didn't have more whole songs like this.

One key reason for the taming is that this time round guitarist Evan Pharmakis has been far more prominent in the vocal department, his clean vocals making an appearance in almost every other track (and for one track where it is almost all singing). Comparing to Curses where his voice was used more sparingly, and in my opinion a better use since it allowed breathing space in between the relentless face breaking heavy parts. Not to say that he can't really sing, in songs like "Where We Are Now" and "The Same Graceful Wind" his delivery is decent and catchy. However the fact that his voice isn't exceptional means that the overuse found on this album really limits the places it can go.

On other aspects, the actual instrumental delivery is solid, new drummer Chris Campbell showing off some very competent kit-work throughout. And despite the guitars sounding thinner and having less blistering aggression, they still sound fairly decent supported by the bass which is only distinctive in a few places. Breakdowns are still kept short and rarely repeat (which given how generic they are is a plus) and there are still the spacey melodic ringing melodies. But they just don't have the same effect now as they did when they provided sharp contrast or complement to the massive thick sound they had the last time. And it is this constant feeling of what could have been and what should have been that plagued me throughout listening to this album. This isn't a fully bad album, but it isn't great either and so sits somewhere lost in the middle. If you were to check this band out, go listen to "Curses", for that is where their music really shines, and really tears things apart.


Download: The Same Graceful Wind, Trashmouth, Sleepwalker
For the fans of: Evergreen Terrace, Every Time I Die, Norma Jean
Listen: Myspace

Release date 24.03.2009
Epitaph Records

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