Run, Forever – The Devil, The Death, and Me (album)

Run, Forever coverThere’s something deliciously simple about The Devil, The Death, and Me, Pittsburgh three-piece Run, Forever’s debut album. That’s not to say that musically, thematically or lyrically there’s anything crude about it, only that it’s a refreshingly honest and straightforward affair given the pompous title.

Reference points are obvious from the outset: vocalist Anthony Heubel either possesses or affects a style that immediately recalls Conor Oberst, and from that it’s not a vast step towards Desaperacidos, Oberst’s short-lived punk sideproject from the early 00s, as Run, Forever are significantly pacier and rockier than Bright Eyes. There are also some similarities with indie/punk favourites The Thermals in the album’s thematic consistency (here, chiefly social corruption and struggles to cope with loss and grief) and the band’s anthemic songwriting sensibilities.

Ultimately, though, they’re no carbon copy and are carving their own path; fast-paced melodic punk with a strong folk edge and a plaintive, faintly haunting quality to the vocals. First track ‘A Sequence of Sad Events’ is characteristic of this, with rarely-halting vocals framed by nippy drums and bass. In contrast ‘For God or Gold’ is a cynical, dark yet somewhat romantic tune structured around evocative octave chord progressions.

There are moments when the band slow down, such as in ‘When It Won’t Leave’, a lyrically-focused song about the loss of a friend (according to the press release, a former band member, Corey James Wolfram). It’s a touching song, with the exception of an excruciating vocal moment early in the song. Speaking of the vocals, they’re almost always excellent with only one or two minor tics here and there, but Heubel does have an odd tendency to throw whoops into his songs. Sometimes, as in ‘No Truth’, they’re fitting, but elsewhere such as ‘For God or Gold’ they feel out of place.

The Devil, And Death, And Me is an album with a fair bit of variation, too: from the meaty mid-tempo ‘No Truth’ to the ponderous, folk-metred ‘There’s Only Today’, from the catchy and anthemic rocker ‘The Grand Illusion’ to the traditional folk-styled ‘Lifted’, Run, Forever are evidently exploring the possibilities inherent in a musical fusion built around anthemic melodic punk rock and folk-tinged indie rock. Where there are songs that don’t stand apart from their fellows – ‘10,000 Leagues’ and the eponymous track spring to mind – they’re still good songs with nice progressions and thoughtful lyrics delivered in a memorable style.

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