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Music Review: Of Hearts and Shadows – Touching Base with a Chainsaw

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Of Hearts and Shadows is the latest in a long line of screamo acts looking to make a dent in the scene. However, to simply call them screamo would be oversimplifying the music they create. Or, I could just be looking for some way to justify my enjoyment of the music.

If you have made a habit of reading my reviews, you probably know that screamo bands have a harder job of winning me over. You see, I am more of a metal guy and the screamo scene often times escapes me. I just wanted that up front, it is not that I am not open to it, but like any new style that comes up and makes it big there are bound to be a lot of sound alike bands that try to get caught in the wake of the frontrunners. That being the case, I have found fewer screamo bands I actually like. Of Hearts and Shadows is one of those bands that showcases a high level of talent and make moves to expand on the borders of the music the play.

Touching Base with a Chainsaw is not a perfect album, not by a longshot, but there is certainly a lot to sink your teeth into. The screamo label is an easy fit for them, although there is a lot of metalcore in their sound. It is almost like a metalcore band brought in a screamo style vocalist and the result is some sort of mutant emocore. The vocals have that alternating clean and raw throated scream mix that is a signature of screamo, but the music has a lot of technical precision in their timing with their lead harmonies and hardcore-esque breakdowns.

Honestly, this album was a surprise. I did not expect much from it, which was likely a mistake on my part, but I am tough enough to admit it. I was caught offguard, the music is crisp, heavy, very easy to bang your head to. Not to mention the strong grooves that they develop, lots of breakdowns and melodic phrasing mixed in that demonstrate some nicely developing songwriting skills.

The weakest part of the band would have to be the vocals, more specifically the clean style employed by Scott Bixby. His scream is quite good, loud, in your face, and carries some emotion. The clean style, however, comes across as a bit flat, not bad most of the time, exposed primarily in the final track, "Aldernaun." The song is considerably softer than the rest of the album, spiced with some acoustic guitars, and while musically it has a nice flow to it, a nice counterpoint to the rest of the album, the vocals don't really work for me. Not terrible, just a little weaker than on the heavier tracks.

For the most part, Touching Base with a Chainsaw delivers the goods. Pay particular attention to tracks "Pretty for Nostalgia," "Arbitrary," "Pull the Trigger," and their near eight minute epic "The Airport Symphonies." Then, as the album begins to wind down, they offer up a solo piano instrumental called "Two Years," it is a soft, contemplative piece which works well as chill down from the rage that has preceded it.

Musically, the band is led by the twin guitars of co-founder Ricky Vazquez and Ian Archer, as they team for some great melodies and very heavy power driven sections. Behind them are bassist Isaih Herevia, and drummer Matt Williams. They are young, and all show the skills to take Of Hearts and Shadows to the next level.

Touching Base with a Chainsaw is a strong debut for the emocore act out of San Diego, CA. I will say, I am not a big fan of the band name, sounds a little too, uh, screamo for me. Also, if I may comment on the album cover, the band's name is a little too hard to make out, it doesn't pop enough. I'd recommend a different font, or at least a different color, so I am not left starring at it trying to figure out who it is.

Bottomline. Definitely worth your time. This is an good album, no doubt about it. It is a band that does not seem content to follow what has been done, but tries to bring a little more to the table. It will be interesting to see how the develop over their next couple of albums. Of Hearts and Shadows is definitely a band to keep an eye on.

Recommended.

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  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Sorry Man, this stuff still holds to much of the Pop Punk/Emo sound for me to take it seriously.
    Just poor all around…

  • brian

    i dont know if some people have a particular taste in certain music, but if you seriously give this album a couple spins.. its by far better than what a lot of people say it is. yes its pop, yes its heavy, melodic, yes a lot of bands sound like this, BUT i didnt like it at first either, and after listening to it you notice things that wernt there the first time through. and idk but if you ask me, the singer is WAYYY better than a lot of other bands. seriously.. pick this album up, and honestly tell me after a couple listens that its “just another screamo band” cause these guys got something the average listener wouldnt even care to comprehend.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Well, I can tell you that Mr. Beaumont is no average listener. He has admitted quite often that he is not a seasoned metal lover,BUT, he has listened to alot of stuff in his short tenure with the B.C. Metal Dept. And though I may criticize his reviews on stuff that he truly likes(this article is an example) I can say, honestly, that he is no fanboy.

    Me, on the other hand, am as far as you can get from “your average listener” and take my job here at B.C. rather seriously.(Even though my articles don’t make the cut anymore…*Hmmf*). Musically, this band may sound like they have potential(not my words)but I don’t want to spend my crucial time following a band that first, I don’t like their style and second, may or may not break their shell. With that being said, there are plenty O’bands out there that can blow your mind the first time around without getting married to the CD for a good month.

    *Trust me, you don’t want that list…*

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Actually, ya know what?? I got one band for you that I can bet with just 3 of their CDs will cover the “Non-Average” spectrum and blow your mind…

    OPETH:
    Still Life
    Blackwater Park
    Damnation

  • http://draven99.blogspot.com Chris Beaumont

    Thank you, Guppy. I always look forward to your comments on my reviews. Always get the straight and narrow with you.

    My tastes run across the spectrum, metal and the related genres will always be my home, though I find I don’t often have the time to delve in as deep as I would like. I like a little of a lot of different stuff.

    The only Opeth I have is Blackwater Park and it is most definitely a phenomenal disk. I should pick up the others.

    Brian, do you publish reviews anywhere? I think you should put together a metal genre primer as you have a better handle on the subtleties than most I have read.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    “though I find I don’t often have the time to delve in as deep as I would like.”

    Chris, I often find,in general, as you really start to get a knack for the music that moves you, you will tend to dismiss quite a bit of what’s out there. Unfortunately,there is plenty of “Metal”, what ever sub-catagory you pick,that really isn’t worth analyzing. But, because of that, when a band puts out some damn good material its real easy to spot. Usually, I will dig around the label’s website that produced the bands that I really like because they usually have their ear to the ground trying to find another original act(to a point).

    Opeth is just one of those bands… And even though “Blackwater” is their “Master of Puppets”, you should check out their old stuff because it was just so heavy and inspiring.

    I would love to write a primer but my last article didn’t get published here because of some errors. Believe me, I couldn’t find’em…
    If I write some articles,with my best English & editing skills possible, could you take another glance at them so I could send them in??

  • http://draven99.blogspot.com Chris Beaumont

    Sure, I could take a look, no problem!

  • sean

    This band really does own. You just need to look deeper into the “screamo” cliche…it’s much different than a lot of those bands out there today. Everyone needs to pick it up.

  • sean

    This band really does own. You just need to look deeper into the “screamo” cliche…it’s much different than a lot of those bands out there today. Everyone needs to pick it up.

  • dan

    seriously, i like these guys.. enough said