Until We Are Ghosts is a by-the-numbers melodic hardcore band for diehard fans of Defeater and Sinking Ships; additional stylistic comparisons can be drawn to the similarly apparition-fascinated The Ghost Inside and Give Up The Ghost. Bitterseed is an emotionally distressed record about finding oneself at a personal crossroads, plagued by sadness but choosing to embrace better living — hopeful, but tired subject matter — and it might speak to uncertain high school graduates. The album probably won’t appease those looking for creative hardcore, however.
Bitterseed sounds great, thanks to Defeater engineer Jay Maas having added weight and impact to the songs. Guitars ring with clarity and tasteful reverb here and there, while the album’s heavier segments emphasize uptempo drums and confrontational vocals.
“The Deserter” is easily the band’s best track, with buried shouting and well-placed atmospherics segueing into a fiery second half. Here, unrestrained emotion — with vocalist Rob Anders recognizing a genetic element in his shortcomings — fuels dynamic hardcore. Meanwhile, “Trails” and “Trade Winds” are pretty, instrumental interludes with clean guitars.
But for the most part, Bitterseed is as one-note as melodic hardcore gets. Until We Are Ghosts contributes nothing original to the genre, nor does it try to. Songs about being an unstable individual trying to overcome personal obstacles are commonplace in the genre, but Bitterseed lacks color and specificity, reading more as a plain summation of feelings. On “Hour Glass,” Anders asserts, “I need to focus more on myself and what is ahead of me.” As relatable as the sentiment is, it’s purely telling without showing. And that’s Bitterseed’s primary modus operandi.
Until We Are Ghosts speaks of shedding demons, losing grip, fighting fears, and not giving up. Bitterseed has its moments, but a barrage of clichés renders most of the album’s nine tracks indistinct and forgettable.
Bitterseed will be available May 27 via InVogue Records.
Review by Anthony Glaser