To The Waves – To The Waves

4 out of 5

Produced by: Chris Common

Label: Burning Building Recordings

To The Waves are an oddball band rather tonally in conflict with themselves; a thorough go-round of the album produces some muddlingly mundane moments that are trampled upon by deceivingly dense and layered tracks that waver between hardcore riffs and emo warbles.  And I don’t mean “waver between” in the screamo sense, where a Good Charlotte knock-off recruits a yelly guy for the choruses – I mean that from the opening riff of any given song, and from Jesse Fox’s yearning vocals, your brain is screaming Weepfest… except the group never quite crosses the emo line you’re expecting, instead diverting into more subtle (but heavy) guitar, bass and drum work and definitely non-emo lyrical territory.  These… these songs are pretty good, you realize, and then suddenly Dave Verellen is Botching across the disc’s midpoint, and you have no idea what’s going on.  The group transitions into slightly punkier numbers thereafter, which are oddly more standard than what’s come before, despite being much less emo-y (these are the mundane moments referred to above), but this appears to be a resting point before a one-two punch: the full-throttle rock of penultimate Lung Motor, and instrumental closer Living Will, which sorta helps clarify what this weird mish-mash style is capable of, with a pretty piano tinkle crashing into epic guitars.

Producer Chris Common may be the key to making this record a surprising highlight, giving the recording an immense amount of depth when bands of either genre would generally do something flatter – a watered down emo sound or a technical hardcore sound.  Fittingly, as To The Waves ain’t exactly either, Common gave the group wings, and the skilled (and seasoned from plenty of other bands – which shows) players definitely took advantage.

You’ve got to sit with this one for a bit.  It’s more likely an average record, and Verellen’s guest track is sort of hilariously out of place, but even the oddity of his inclusion sorta adds to why it’s worth a more patient listen.

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