March, 2018 is delivering some of the best progressive metalcore / hardcore music one can come across. Between the Buried and Me came out with a solid Automata I, not to forget the Holy Roar duo of Conjurer with their hard-hitting Mire and Rolo Tomassi with the top-notch post-hardcore offering Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It. Greyhaven just continue the trend with their sophomore effort Empty Black.
Greyhaven? Who? I found myself asking the same question, after listening to their lead single “Echo and Dust Pt. I.” Hailing from Louisville, Kentucky, the four piece band brings out a truly unique and interesting mix of metalcore and melodic hardcore with their sound. While one can find influences ranging from Norma Jean to Every Time I Die to Converge, Empty Black sees them take this mixture of sounds and amp it up to reach to a level that is truly their own.
The album kicks off with “Sweet Machine” which instantly brings in a fantastic chaotic mix of melodic and thrashier moments. The screams by Brent Mills do take me back to Greg Puciato and his fantastic work as the lead man of The Dillinger Escape Plan. By the time we reach to mid-way, as the clean choruses take centre stage, one realises that it’s that pair of powerful lungs that are going to guide the listener for the rest of the journey on Empty Black. The interesting bit is that up-next “Blemish” continues to drive the same sonic signature sound of the opener, while going higher up the wall in terms of intensity, but the vocals take a more backstage position this time around, almost completely changing the dynamics of the music. This not only helps keep the listeners hooked, but also the track packs a crackpot of wild emotions, in just under three and a half minutes.
Greyhaven clearly knows how to mix it all up and were careful not to push the same sound throughout Empty Black, as “Echo and Dust Pt. I.” sees them take the pedal off the gas and dive into some introspection, which is then followed up with a total head-banger in “Mortality Rate”. The track starts off with some off the best hardcore music you will come across, before breaking into a metalcore groove. The rhythmic grove of the track is so infectious, it’s bound to get any metalcore fan swaying to its beat. Down the road we are treated to “White Lighters” which just topples the boat and completely reverses the tide. If there could be a thing called post-rock-metalcore ballad, this would be it. Leading the proceeding, Mills sadness and despair reflect with each line, as drowned guitar riffs play in the background. The drums and bass slowly creep in as the track builds its intensity, before fading back into the darkness. “Echo and Dust pt. II” brings the 38-minute album to a close, with Greyhaven in their most ethereal form. There is a rich progressive flow to the track, as it glides between the calmer and more darker moments. There is a beautiful restraint in the sound, as all the chaos and fanatic sounds subside for a more Deftones-esque passive aggression.
Lastly, great praise must go to Will Putney’s (of Fit For An Autopsy) work as producer on the record. For a hardcore record, the sound is indeed extremely well-balanced, without ever becoming too loud. While the mix and mastering may come off as a bit weird on the first spin, its mainly duty the memory effect of hardcore records being compressed and loud. It’s only when one gives Empty Black multiple spins, that one begins to appreciate the full dynamics on display, as the mastering ensures that the record maintains its aggressive form, without ever coming out as brick-walled. The instrumentation is pristine, with every drum fill and every bass note given full scope to grow in its sound.
So how does one sum up such a large sonic landscape? Going back to the start, there is no denying that at the end of the day Empty Black is still firmly a metalcore/hardcore record. Greyhaven are clearly heavily inspired by the likes of Every Time I Die and The Dillinger Escape Plan, and yes, one is bound to find such influences throughout the record. But, where the band segregates itself from the army of clones, is the dedication and self-awareness they bring to the music. The aforementioned variation in song length, structure and intensity, helps keep things fresh while also showcasing a more detailed picture of their sound, while avoiding a monotonous flow to the record.
In short, with Empty Black, Greyhaven have made a really powerful statement as a band. In a metalcore scene which is saturated and bereft of growth, Greyhaven show how younger bands can take the sound of the founding fathers of the sub-genre and build upon it, to scale new heights. They are definitely a band to keep your eyes on, and Empty Black is the best opportunity to get on board the fan wagon.
Notable Tracks: “Blemish”; “White Lighters”; “Echo and Dust pt. II”.
FFO: The Dillinger Escape Plan, Norma Jean, Every Time I Die.
To keep up with the band and their music and tours (they are currently touring the US with Norma Jean, Gideon and Toothgrinder) follow them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Empty Black releases on Equal Vision Records on March 16th, and can be pre-ordered on iTunes or Merch Now (CD/Vinyl/Merchandise).