Stand Your Ground – Despondenseas

Stand Your Ground coverOkay, straight up. You know it and I know it. Despondenseas is a terrible name. In the leagues of puns, it sinks below the sort of material your dad might come out with. “A dyslexic man walks into a bra.” Oh god! We’re almost talking teen poetry on LiveJournal sort of territory here. Earlier today I read an, uh, ‘poem’ on DeviantArt titled ‘Last Resort 2‘. You laugh at it, and then you feel pity. Damn, dude, you put that shit on the internet?

Fortunately, and I’m genuinely happy to share this fact, Stand Your Ground rise above that title. It doesn’t feel like there’s any sense of irony about it; they’re not a playful band, there’s no self-deprecation here; they play metal and there’s a strong sense of emotional fatigue or even despair about it. It’s a solid record and among the standard metal riffage there are some great bits of high-end lead, octave chords and delay/sustain guitar effects that, frankly, demonstrate a grasp of dynamics that still seems to be beyond a lot of metal bands.

(Metal fans may at this point respond by pointing out that a lot of the bands I love have yet to move beyond the power chord. And also I openly adore octave chords, which are one note removed from power chords. I know. Music reviewing is subjective. That’s why it’s fun.)

So anyway: Stand Your Ground are a band who hail from Tennessee and this record is a joint release between Mediaskare and Rite of Passage. Readers of NFI at this point may note that recently Mediaskare have sent me a whole bunch of Christian metal to review. Well, Despondseas does fit into that category, but where it differs from other records I’ve recently written about is that I actually enjoy it.

It’s not exactly revolutionary why: these guys shift between heavy and loud moments, introspective and mellow moments, and urgent and powerful moments: anger, thoughtfulness, and drive. It’s almost as though in some way this combination of emotions and sensations mirrors the human experience, huh?

Okay, I’ve spent a lot of time rambling and grinding axes here and that’s not really fun, because honestly Stand Your Ground have produced a record here that I genuinely enjoy listening to. It reminds me a bit of the style of metalcore bands who got popular around the time that nu-metal peaked and began to sink into decline: Killswitch Engage and 36 Crazyfists are two bands I liked a lot back in… uh… ’02, ’03? Stand Your Ground aren’t doing anything too similar to that but in terms of how they draw from metal and hardcore but make excellent use of dynamics there are certainly comparisons to be made.

Take ‘A Star Shines’: it opens with heavily muted drums and guitar, and after just a couple of bars it kicks into an octave chord-heavy chord progression with thumping drums and bass, and once that intro has run its course it shifts into a chuggy metal style (with some lead noodling away too, ‘k) and roared vocals, but just in those few moments it’s already interesting to me. From that point on it’s a song that is rarely flashy; the sort of tune you might describe as solid, its flourishes unrestrained, but it simply works.

Elsewhere there are a few indications that the band either like to dabble or wish to dabble more: the following song ‘Nautilus’ has a brief moment where a little bit of glitch is slipped in, lending the song for just a brief moment an almost industrial feel. It’s just for a few seconds, though, and some might justly describe it as incongruous. They’d probably have a point, too, as in the context of the record overall it’s rather out of place. Nonetheless I like it.

And that’s about it, really: Despondseas is a record I like. The name is terrible, but who cares? The band are openly Christian but whether or not you share said values doesn’t matter in the context of these eleven songs. Nah, this is just a good bit of metalcore, frankly, and if you’re pining for something that can be aggressive as well as well as interesting and emotional you may well get some mileage from it.

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