It may have taken a while, but the time has finally come for Australia to declare itself as the prime exporter of no-holds barred, extremely powerful metalcore and punk. Although Byron Bay’s Parkway Drive are a clear frontrunner, the likes of pop-punkers Tonight Alive and post-hardcore group Hands Like Houses have slowly but surely risen up the ladder in order to take a step closer towards world recognition. 2015, though, sees a whole new breed of bands take to the world stage, one of them being In Hearts Wake. The quartet, who released the brutally melodic Earthwalker last year, have just come out with a brand new record which goes by the name of Skydancer. Read on for a full album review.
At approximately 33 minutes long, Skydancer isn’t exactly a sprawling metal behemoth, even if the ethereal album opener Aether comes across in that vein. Electronic drumming underpins ambient noise and fuzzy guitar jabs, which segue into the brutal title track, Skydancer (featuring Jonathan Vigil of The Ghost Inside). Metalcore-by-numbers riffs and gang vocals make way for a chorus which sees bassist Kyle Erich sing, “you’re never gonna see it till you’re
dancing on top of the world”. Jake Taylor’s immense growls and grunts perfectly complement the top-heavy instrumentation, which consists mainly of stabbing guitar jabs, dreamy electronic sections and fuzzy guitar lines. “Remember when you first called home” shouts Taylor towards the end of the track, before the upbeat Breakaway makes use of a haunting guitar line to accompany Erich’s clean vocals. “Break, breakaway” sings Taylor in the chorus alongside a selection of gang vocals, with the main focus on the track centring on Erich’s vocals. It bears reminiscence to Of Mice & Men’s most recent output, which in turn leant heavily on radio-friendly Nu Metal a la Linkin Park. Mike Shinoda & co.’s influence is definitely present on Breakaway, something which can’t be said of the brutal Badlands. A chugging riff holds front for the most part, courtesy of guitarists Ben Nairne and Eaven Dall. Later on, another jangly melody line accompanies a menacing breakdown which sees Taylor plead, “don’t let this world go”. Gang vocals subsequently chant, “we are the outlaws, we are the outlaws” as the song comes to a brutal end. The upbeat Insomnia follows, encompassing another fast-paced guitar line which leans on the borderline haunting. The verses keep up the pace as Taylor half talks in a tone which comes across as intense, raw and gritty. “Nothing always has a meaning if everything is always grieving” he declares during the second verse, making way for another clean vocal-centred chorus which ticks all the boxes regarding classic metalcore.
Oblivion marks the halfway point on Skydancer, with bleeping electronics and an ambient drone accompanying forceful guitar stabs which mean even more business with every chug. When the drums kick in, an extra sense of menace enters the frame as lopsided guitars eventually play the track out. Wildfire follows, making use of a riff which sounds extremely similar to the ones used on Insomnia and Breakaway. Although it follows a similar structure to most of the songs on the record, that’s not to say that it’s not a good track. On the contrary, Wildfire is one of the highlights of the record, which is mainly down to its consistent speed that looks set to cause pits during every single set it features in. “We’re burning alive” comes the cry from a loud gang vocal section, before Cottonmouth takes the title for heaviest song on the record. The formula may be the same, but everything has now been turned up to 11. There’s
a heavy emphasis on pace-shifting guitars during the drop, which chug in and out of consciousness ahead of a vocal effects-laden mid-section. A call-and-response section subsequently precedes the same drop, yet this time an electronic edge has been added to the frame. Erase features a gritty opening bassline courtesy of Erich, before the track kicks in and swaggers along in a style similar to that of Limp Bizkit at their most stoned. Later on in the track, Hacktivist’s fronting duo of J Hurley and Ben Marvin make a guest appearance as they rap on the important matter of racism and segregation. “Separation will never advance us” sings Hurley, before a final chorus leads into Intrepid, featuring Marcus Bridge of fellow Australians Northlane. Bridge’s influence on the track is definitely present, with the guitars all chugging even faster than before during the drop. “There’s no turning back, can you feel it?” questions Taylor before a dark and brooding guitar line underpins the drop. The album closes on Father, opening with a melancholy piano line and mellow strings. An unknown vocalist takes the helm of the song as he speaks of life, nature and the future of our planet. “Whatever he [man] does to the web [of life], he does to himself” speaks the male voice as the rest of track remains instrumental, a solemn guitar melody playing the album out alongside electric drums.
Skydancer is an album which In Hearts Wake can, and should, be proud of. Despite the record following similar structures for the most part, In Hearts Wake have just the right amount of power and edge to make them stand out from their contemporaries. Skydancer is one of the best metalcore records in a long time, yet if it will stand the test of time in this ever-changing musical landscape remains to be seen.
Skydancer is out now via UNFD/Rise Records.