Each Breath Haunted
posted on 8/2005 By:
I expected trouble from this bunch as soon as I visited their Ferret Music bandpage and got a good look at the band themselves. Dyed black hair, makeup, zip hoodies, the works; I was bracing myself for another round with the galloping guitars, breakdowns, and clean vocal cliches that have made metalcore so despised before I even heard The Banner. Shame on me. The band rightly aligns itself with The Misfits rather than, say, Bleeding Through, which is a good sign in and of itself. Not to say that this sounds much like Glen Danzig's true unit, mind; these guys are clearly and distinctly hardcore rather than punk. In essence, The Banner are The Hope Conspiracy's eyeliner'd, incense-burning AFI fan of a cousin. There's a definite familial resemblance, but the latter has traded in the former's muscular clout in favor of some darker melody and a bleak aesthetic.
This is sort of a problem because, let's face it, traditional hardcore is all about muscle. The Banner are at their best when injecting slightly dissonant melodies into their two-stepping structures. Songs like "An Allergy to Sun" and "Muddweller" are actually quite effective when employing depressive guitar arpeggios and vocalist Joey's occasional ethereal clean singing. Joey, for his part, acquits himself quite well throughout the album, with appropriately spiteful lyrics and a rending howl of a voice. It's actually sort of a shame, because it's when acid vocals would be most useful that The Banner lose their steam. While the band fare reasonably well during their more melodic segments, they can never quite seem to build up enough momentum to really unload with hardcore's meat and potatoes--that is, gang-shouted choruses and breakdowns. This is where the thundering machismo of kin like The Hope Conspiracy and, to a lesser extent, Hatebreed, is sorely missed. The heavy parts seem forced and halting; it's as though The Banner were trying to write more organic songs but felt obligated to disrupt their own flow by cramming in teenage pit-pleasers. This leaves The Banner in a rotten spot; they're too artsy-fartsy to please the thickneck chest-thumpers that eat up more surly and aggressive forms of hardcore while simultaneously putting off more sophisticated listeners with their piecemeal songwriting.
This shit really isn't all that bad, and it's certainly better than I expected. The Banner are on the threshold of something that just might be originality in hardcore here, and for that I must accredit them. Unfortunately, their lumpier-than-chili songwriting squelches any power their better riffs might have had. Better luck next time, boys.
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