Going into this album, I was worried. The inclusion of the phrase “Hardcore mentality for a metalcore generation” in its press release had hairs raising on the back of my neck, exacerbated by the lead singer’s description of the ten-track album as having ten potential singles to its name. What I got wasn’t as bad as what I’d imagined, a realization that led to some substantial relief, but as the album continued (somehow making a run-time of ~36 minutes drag), that relief faded.
Admittedly, I don’t keep up with metalcore. It’s just not a genre (or sub-genre, or whatever categorization you want to throw at it) that does much for me, though the odd riff or chorus does tweak some fun nodes in the brain cells. Finding that Bury Tomorrow went light on the screamo vocals (at least on this album) and instead favored a lighter version of the infamous Cookie Monster style made me happier than this type of vocals usually do, so much of the album benefited from a ‘well, this wasn’t as bad as I was anticipating’ effect. There was also more death metal injected than I’m used to hearing from metalcore, though the band found plenty of places to jam in some frilliness.
That said, there still wasn’t much to Earthbound that stimulated my ears or insides. The guitar-work, while decent on a technical level, felt too constrained by tying in with the vocals and their rhythm to go off on any significant rips of aggression; the drums felt a little watered down by the mixing, without much room to show-off beyond tempo maintenance; and the bass, while effective in providing a thick under-coating, was just there without much flourish practically all of the time. As a result, it seemed as though the band’s best work was in the bridges, where they could drop the lock-step arrangements and color outside the lines a little, and these added up to maybe a couple of minutes across all of the songs.
Lyrically, there’s nothing in particular to pick out as fresh, though some credit should be given to the lead singer for his delivery, which lands a nice balance between growly and intelligible. There are a few good lines (a nod to the chorus of “Cemetery” goes here) but, for the most part, the verses are just bland. It’s hard to imagine they were written with the intent of saying something rather than just filling out space with metalcore imagery of vague discontent and resentment in relationships, references to mortality, and fighting against a nebulous adversity.
While this album may be a move forward for the band itself, based on the songs in Earthbound, deathcore’s been spinning its wheels since about a decade ago. It’s not too difficult to imagine tie-in T-shirts filling bins at Hot Topic, and a few of the songs getting air-time on the more adventurous hard rock terrestrial radio stations but, unless you’re in your mid-teens, this album probably won’t offer you anything new.