Back To Oblivion

Written by: PP on 17/09/2014 22:53:48

Twelve years ago, seminal emo / post-hardcore band Finch released "What It Is To Burn", a pioneering album for the modern era of post-hardcore that sourced its inspiration from 90s emo bands like Sunny Day Real Estate and Mineral, but translated that sound into a far more emotionally raw, voluminous and arena-sized experience. Genre classics like "Perfection Through Silence", "Post Script", and "Project Mayhem" delivered devastating screamo chaos through a beautifully executed quiet/loud dynamic, one that would rely on melancholic, emotionally charged sing along melodies one moment and morph into raspy, throaty screaming a passage later. More importantly, it was anthemic and even radio friendly, so it helped elevate the band into scene stardom back in the day, and shaped the foundation behind bands like Hawthorne Heights, Saosin, A Static Lullaby, The Used, Funeral For A Friend and countless other emo/screamo bands you remember from the early to mid 2000s.

Nine years ago, sophomore album "Say Hello To Sunshine" divided their fan base into two. With screams all but removed, the album was a dark, complex venture into experimental alternative rock with only hints of their anthemic post-hardcore soundscapes audible in the mix. Commercial performance and fan reaction was disappointing because it was less catchy, even if today many view it as an even better album overall than "What It Is To Burn" - a grower, in other words. Nonetheless, Finch disbanded shortly afterwards; periodic reunions have occurred since then, including the 10 year anniversary tour of "What It Is To Burn", where the album was played in its entirety in a few countries and venues across the world.

That lengthy introduction leads us to their third album "Back To Oblivion". Nine years separated from when emo/screamo was last at the forefront of mainstream rock culture, it's precisely the album that the band needed to write to stay relevant, while still maintaining a rigid connection to their genre-defining past. Basically, the album should prove to be the long-awaited mending of broken bones between the two fan groups each proclaiming one record to be better than the other one, because it effectively combines the anthemic, infectiously catchy melodies of "What It Is To Burn" with a dark and a far more complex and challenging soundscape, much like "Say Hello To Sunshine" in that sense. In other words, it's not the pop-oriented emo sing along then scream along repeat of the debut, but neither the difficult and experimental repeat of the sophomore.

Instead, what we get is an excellent reminder of what made Finch great in the first place. The songs are distinctly emo / post-hardcore / screamo in the vein of the early 2000s era of the genre, meaning that they are angsty, scream-laden, and high on emotional charge, but at the same time feel fresh and not dated, which I initially feared might have been the case for a new Finch album. So whilst old post-hardcore ideals are celebrated - just listen to the glorious echo of the glimmering lead guitar melody reverberation of the brilliant title track that opens the album - they are also updated to sound relevant with 2014 music scene kept in mind. Vocalist Nate Barcalow's voice is constantly edging between screaming and melancholic singing, giving his lines character and charisma that allows them to fly sky-high in the atmospheric songs without resorting into high-pitch cleans like most other post-hardcore bands these days. He sounds passionate and genuine as his vocals guide us through ambitious songs that echo undertones of "What It Is The Burn" whilst offering a far more complex and depth-laden soundscape overall.

"Anywhere But Here" is a good representative of what to expect from the remainder of the album as well. It features a grand, spacious soundscape but still feels down-to-earth and avoids sounding over-inflated. Production tricks are kept to the minimum to ensure a raw expression that can easily transition between chaotic screaming and more melodic chorus sections. That said, the band does throw a couple of curveballs our way as well, as is the case with the magnificent "Murder Me". The track opens with a quiet, almost acoustic instrumental landscape with Nate softly singing "This is my laaaaast drink.", before masterfully transitioning into echoing, arena-sized post-hardcore as we progress through the song. Fortunately the orchestral elements are kept strictly to the background as supporting elements while guitars, bass, drums and of course Nate's sublime vocals are at the forefront. It's a wise choice; way too many post-hardcore bands these days sound theatrical and dramatic without any substance behind the mix. The opposite is the case here as we reach the chorus melody that's bound to be back-chilling in especially open-air environments. Similarly, "Play Dead" is also playing heavily on the quiet/loud dynamic with its lengthy introduction that opens up into a quintessential Finch moment during its chorus. "Picasso Trigger" sounds like it could've been on a Deftones album with its crooned, dreamy vocals that recall Chino Moreno's haunted style.

Fans of the more melodic material have plenty more to look forward to, by the way. Songs like "Two Guns To The Temple", "The Great Divide", "Us Vs. Them", and "Tarot" provide an impressive string of huge-sounding, anthemic post-hardcore songs that make some of those "What It Is To Burn" moments pale in comparison. All this while combining screams and semi-cleans in exactly the same way as we remember them from Finch classics.

In the end, "Back To Oblivion" is so packed with excellent songs that it's difficult to argue it to be anything but an essential purchase for post-hardcore fans in 2014. It's a great comeback album, a perfect mix between the melodic ethos of "What It Is To Burn" and the darker and more experimental "Say Hello To Sunshine", rammed with melancholy, emotion, and great songwriting.

Download: Tarot, Us Vs. Them, Back To Oblivion, Murder Me, Anywhere But Here
For the fans of: Glassjaw, Funeral For A Friend, Saosin, Thursday, A Static Lullaby
Listen: Facebook

Release date 29.09.2014
Razor & Tie / Spinefarm Records

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