Jamie's Elsewhere

They Said A Storm Was Coming

Written by: TL on 20/02/2010 15:49:16

Once upon a time, I used to rule our scene music coverage unchallenged, but ever since a certain Mr. Botong Li joined our staff, he has all but completely invaded that territory, barring me from having my fair say about matters taking place there. An advantage surely, because you get that stuff reviewed by a guy who probably listens to every single band in the genre, big and small, yet also a disadvantage maybe, since Mr. Li doesn't often visit other territories to have his perspective widened? Regardless, I'm not rolling over so easily, so when Jamie's Elsewhere recently returned with a follow-up to their "Guidebook To Sinner's Turned Saints", called "They Said A Storm Was Coming", I called shotgun faster than Lucky Luke could've drawn his pistols.

If you don't remember my review of the last album, it was a disc that first alienated you with it's freakishly high and somewhat dodgy clean vocals, but given the chance also enamoured the listener with numerous strong hook-lines, both clean and screamed, and it took me but one comparative listen to remember exactly why I loved that disc. On this new one however, quite a few things have changed, while quite a few however also remain the same. The album is about the same length, with only two truly down tempo songs, occupying the middle just as on the previous disc, and with the album title popping up in a screamed refrain briefly in one of the tracks immediately prior to those two, also just as on the previous album. The sing/scream dynamic is also about the same, with the cleans being clearly favoured , however the singing is different all together, as singer Aaron Pauley is one of two or three new faces who have taken over for old ones who've left the band since last time around.

Pauley isn't the only one to contribute with changes though, as JE in this new constellation have taken a full step into super-technical trend within today's post-hardcore scene, stringing monstrous breaks together with pseudo-mean grooves and hyper-melodic leads, all in a production that sounds so smooth and futuristic, the album effectively sounds like the weapon system of some sophisticated alien space-craft. Normally, I am sick to death of this approach, and it's something for me to 'get around' before I can truly enjoy the songs on offer (see: The Word Alive and Broadway), but here, I must admit defeat and surrender unconditionally. The production, the melodies, the grooves, the breaks, the composition, it all sounds absolutely bleeding spotless. It's like the most finely refined example of what this style has had to offer so far.

That's why Mr. Pauley and his vocal work pisses me off to almost no end. You may listen to this and think "but he's not a bad singer?" and you're right, he's not, in fact he might be technically more proficient with his pipes than his predecessor, however, am I the only one who notices how completely generic and un-characteristic his voice sounds here, regardless of whether it be his own fault or that of the production? Nevermind holding a candle to the stars of the scene (Jonny Craig, Anthony Green, Dallas Green etc.), put him in a line-up next to average p/h frontman like the dudes from TWA, Broadway, Burden Of A Day, Greeley Estates or Scary Kids Scaring Kids, and still, this dude would be the grey mice among lions. His cleans are simply too God damn clean for me to like and they have no edge or personality in them for me to remember, and when you take into consideration that he constantly chooses to sing lines with few words and boringly prolonged notes, the delivery is so flat and forgettable that it pains me to hear it paired up with such blistering instrumentals. And the screamed parts aren't that much better, sounding sadly one-dimensional and from a hiding place somewhat deeper down in the mix than everything else, and effectively they lack the impact their inclusion would imply. Again, I must point out that bands like these need to have their heavy parts sound heavy (see: Bless The Fall) otherwise they will fail at conveying the weight of the band's live performance on record (see; Alesana). The instrumentals do their part here, but puny Pauley is unfortunately some way behind them.

Hence my feeling for this new JE album is one of slight disappointment, simply because the over-matched vocals only really manage to create memorable refrains in "Giants Among Common Men", "One Foot In The Grave" and in the too-little-too-late-ish heavy intro to closer "Antithesis". It's such a God damn shame, because this album could have been epic with some charismatic vocals on top of all that awesome music, and considering how even small British bands (see; Bury Tomorrow and We Are The Ocean) can pick up dudes with awesome pipes, I'm afraid the dominating feeling here is that "They Said A Storm Was Coming" could've been so much more with a kickass singer to boot. As it is however, I am almost more inclined to brave the dodgy-ness of the previous singer to enjoy the better hooks of the preceding album, than I am towards giving this many spins after this review.


Download: Giants Among Common Men, One Foot In The Grave, Antithesis
For The Fans Of: Scary Kids Scaring Kids, Burden Of A Day, Broadway, The Word Alive
Listen: myspace.com/jamieselsewhere

Release Date 16.02.2010
Victory Records

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