REVIEW: Reward – ‘Painted Desperation’

'Painted Desperation' is available now via Mutant League Records.

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Reward - 'Painted Desperation'

Raised on hardcore, surrounded by pop-punk, Reward pitch an interesting spin on modern rock.  Maybe this isn’t actually the true story behind the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania rockers, but their latest release, ‘Painted Desperation’, definitely gives this impression.

“Seep” opens the EP with snarling guitars and sizzling cymbals that would be welcome on any Trash Talk track, but the rest of the band quickly hops in to bring about a driving 2-4 beat that would be heard on a “rock” radio station.  The five piece group maintains this dichotomy throughout; Reward mix hardcore elements such as screamed lyrics and intense drumming with modern rock traits like layered vocals and guitar solos.  This combination of current popular rock trends with hardcore style sounds strikingly reminiscent of the Chicago group, Rise Against.  While Reward’s musical synthesis holds similarities to Rise Against, they stray in other areas.

Lyrically, ‘Painted Desperation’ avoids the political and social commentary shared between Rise Against and hardcore bands.  Instead, the group tend towards themes of failed relationships and bleak feelings.  The hardcore influence and angst-filled lyrics together lean more towards a contemporary pop-punk sound.  The snappy verses and hoarse yelling on songs such as “Soft Teeth” call to mind bands ranging from Silverstein to Such Gold that have mixed pop-punk with hardcore elements.

Reward thrive when they are at their most intense.  The raspy growls mixed with chugging guitars accomplish an excellent blend with the hooks present throughout the EP.  The clean singing doesn’t stand scrutiny quite as well.  When the band backs off, the exposed vocals often sound weak and a little uneasy.  The attempts at held out vocal riffing prove equally problematic and come out sounding less than amazing.  Screaming vocal parts are welcomed as a noticeable upgrade in quality.  A greater emphasis on these more hardcore leaning sections could benefit the band.

‘Painted Desperation’ brings together an interesting and effective set of influences.  Not only does the band fuse hardcore to popular rock, they also manage to make an Arrested Development reference with “Teamocil.”  When the songs focus on radio rock, the EP can start to seem like a somewhat empty attempt to bring hardcore to modern rock, but when the group gets in gear they pack plenty of punch.  The closer, “Hooked,” ends the EP with one of the most passionate moments on the album that leaves the group in the best light possible.  If Reward can continue this intensity, they’ve definitely got more ahead in their future.