The Saddest Landscape – You Will Not Survive
Boston’s The Saddest Landscape are a band with a bit of a pedigree; originally formed in 2002, they released splits with notable outfits like Funeral Diner and shared the stage with a number of contemporary emo and screamo outfits. They split for a couple of years in ’06 and ’07 before reuniting for a few European shows. As is often the way this brief reunion turned into some more shows, a split and a discog vinyl LP – and, now, a new full-length release.
One thing about this band that leaps right out at me is that although, given the vocal passion and volume/intensity of the music, it is easy to categorise them as a screamo band, their songs are much simpler and less ornamented than a lot of current screamo bands, who often pride technical virtuosity and musicianship very highly – possibly because that’s the natural place to push frantic playing that only ever seems chaotic and unplanned. In the case of the Saddest Landscape, the music is simpler, constructed out of more basic components in building towards an emotionally intense and violently passionate whole. Whether this is deliberate or not I don’t know, but it’s an approach which meets with mixed success.
There are moments of extraordinary force here, typically driven by Andy Maddox’s desperate vocal style and plaintive, vulnerably exposed lyrics. In opener ‘Declaring War on Nostalgia’ he expresses a desire to go “back to when our drinks didn’t weigh us down” – a sentiment of encroaching adulthood I can relate to. In ‘Eternity is Lost on the Dying’ he cries “we are desperate kids doing extraordinary things”. Then there’s ‘The Shadows I Call Home’, with the repeated refrain “we build walls to feel less alone”. These are good lyrics made great by the passion invested in them. Unfortunately there’s a phlegmy, somewhat salival quality to the vocals that I find occasionally distracting. Still, an imperfect singing style does indicate that this isn’t just forced, fake passion ala. far too many fucking haircut screamo bands.
Musically, as mentioned, the songs are simpler than a lot of contemporary emo/screamo outfits, and do hearken back towards the atmospheric and emotional soundscapes of classic 90s emocore bands (let’s say Maximillian Colby and Indian Summer as not particularly representative examples). I may have mentioned earlier than the band lean away from extreme virtuosity but that’s not to say they lack in talent; the drumming is tight and fast and the strings are hammered with speed and precision. However, the songwriting is a little formulaic at times. There are numerous moments where the music hangs back to allow for plaintive wailed and gasped vocals. It’s an effective trick but overused here. Ditto the repeated refrains; whilst the aforementioned lines in ‘The Shadows I Call Home’ have power, the trick has been heard before on this album. The drums recurrently slip into an almost martial beat – a repetition which might be easy to overlook in itself, but taken as another over-used part it sticks awkwardly in the mind.
You Will Not Survive is a decent album with laudable moments of impressive intensity. It’s also a distinct release: The Saddest Landscape successfully stand apart from their contemporaries as offering something a little bit different. However, this full length should perhaps have been trimmed down to a mini-album or lengthy EP, or perhaps just had a few more ideas introduced to vary its songwriting and structure.