Riffs, man. I love me some riffs. As a matter of fact, there aren’t too many thing I can name that I actually dig more than a sick riff. A lot of times when it comes to -core bands, the riff gets forsaken. This happens way too often, honestly, and when the riff is forsaken, quality suffers. Badly.
Good news for Laguaria, then: they have not forsaken the riff, and the power of the riff has not forsaken them, like it has so many other less lucky bands. Bonkers, the New Jersey post-hardcore act’s debut EP, is chock full of quirky, diverse riffs that’ll be bouncing around your head for days to come after only a listen or two. Whether it’s the pleasurably bouncy chug-a-lug breakdowns or the sparkly backing riff during the spoken word on Pirate Song, the dudes in Laguaria know how to write something that you’ll remember right off the bat
Good news for Laguaria part II: they’ve got a whole lot more to offer the world than riffs. The band’s sound revolves mainly around a sound that, while still present at the core of many mainstream post-hardcore and metalcore bands’ sounds, seems to have faded out a bit toward the end of the last decade. Rather than relying completely on chugging verse sections and a typical song structure, the band seems to take cues from older bands like Alexisonfire, or perhaps even classic metalcore act Poison the Well, playing more frantically and with a rawness that makes the songs sound that much more human. The clean but not-overdone production helps to enunciate the wild energy the band injects in their songs and shirks the need for an overproduced sound that seems to pervade most modern contemporary bands of this strain. The harsh vocals could not possibly fit the band’s sound better, and the clean vocals lack the skull-smashingly annoying “shiny” mastering that big names like Of Mice & Men revel in; that is to say, they sound like one actual human singing naturally.
The first two tracks on Bonkers fit the aforementioned sound fairly well, but in comparison the the remainder of the release, they arguably play it just a bit too safe. Pirate Song will have listeners throwing their “what the fucks” all over the place, because it sure as hell comes out of nowhere. The song is precisely what its title leads one to believe: a rootin’-tootin’ tale of piracy, just as frantic as the prior tracks, yet even more memorable due to the fact that Laguaria clearly had a grand ol’ time writing and recording it. It’s at this moment on the EP that one will realize the band really aren’t trying to prove anything to anyone, which is well and good, because the track also shows that they don’t need to – they can have fun, write a seemingly ridiculous track, and let the song’s raucous spirit carry it as a strong centerpiece to an already solid release.
The closer ‘Pill Bottles’ help Laguaria finish their debut release on a fairly strong note. The former boasts an Every Time I Die-like energy and charisma with a one of the prettiest riffs on the record appearing near the track’s end, while Pill Bottles is another obvious highlight; it has by far the most progressive sound Laguaria has yet shown, hinting, maybe, at a slight influence from The Fall of Troy, while also displaying what is probably the tightest songwriting on the EP.
Despite all of the promise shown on Laguaria’s debut, there are certainly some things that could be improved upon. The first couple tracks, once again, truly pale in comparison to the next three in terms of memorability, and a few of the clean vocal sections could use some sprucing up. There is one other detail that is easily my least favorite part about Bonkers: the remarkably unnecessarily layering of the harsh vocals. This seems to happen fairly often – most recently with The Last Ten Seconds of Life‘s Soulless Hymns – and it legitimately confuses me, because Laguaria’s harsh vocalist is, once again, very good.
But the fact of the matter is that it’s exceedingly rare that a band gets as many things right on their very first release as Laguaria did. With some fine tuning that will hopefully be happening in the near future – the band themselves have already hinted at new music in the coming year – Laguaria could find themselves on the path to become an established name in the modern post-hardcore game. Certainly not a band to sit on, if I may say so myself.
Top Tracks: Pirate Song, Pill Bottles
FFO: The Fall of Troy, Alexisonfire