For about half of the opening track of Still Remains’ debut full-length album, you’re thinking: ‘Another day, another metalcore band.’ The old skool, thrashy guitars, pummelling drums and vomited vocals are all in order and by the time the slightly more obvious chorus has whizzed past, it’s a case of so far, so Killswitch Engage.
And then something strange happens. Your ears prick up. Is that a keyboard swirling in the maelstrom of distorted guitars and adding a welcome touch of seasoning to the sonic stew? So simple yet so effective…
Now no-one’s claiming that it’s the most innovative musical idea since Adolph Rickenbacker invented the electric guitar, but somehow the blending of Still Remains’ youthful metalcore exuberance with gothic, eerie keys lends the 12 tracks on Of Love And Lunacy an epic ambience that marks it out from the increasingly homogeneous crowd.
In Place Of Hope is a case in point, featuring seriously chugging, heavy guitar sections, Funeral For A Friend-type anthemics, and all wrapped up in a cloak of grandiosity courtesy of Zach Roth’s keys.
And it’s not the only jewel. The Worst Is Yet To Come has black metal riffs, vocals and keys going off all over the place; Cherished features a gargantuan section of slowed-down, pneumatic riffs while TJ Miller implores, “More! More of You!”; Kelsey gets deep, down and dirty with crushing intensity; while the harmonised vocals of Stare And Wonder add to the epic-dom in a way that only a full-on choir could have out-trumped.
The other great thing about Still Remains is that they are not ashamed to switch from morose to “happy”. Nowhere is this demonstrated more clearly than on Recovery – a tale of personal, spiritual struggle where the air of the musical passages moves in tandem with the mood of the lyrics.
And so after minutes of musical mayhem during which Miller confesses that “it’s time to came back again, it’s time to make correction,” things go down a few notches and then a piano leads us back into a literally ecstatic, vocals-only part (“undeserving, You love me still, Your love I love”), before the doubts return for the maximum heaviosity, guttural accompaniment to: “I’ve looked away from Your grace / You’ve been waiting at the gates.” Simply magnificent.
There’s a point during album closer Blossom The Witch when it sounds like the guitars, the vocals and the keyboards are all battling for supremacy. At various points on Of Love And Lunacy, they all win. In contrast, if you miss this album then, quite simply, you lose.