The Departure - Gateways
Have you ever wished you could listen to Blink 182, Evanessence, Linkin Park and Switched-On Bach at the same time? Well now you don’t have to choose! The Departure combines pop punk, rap metal, emo and classical synths into one big rock smoothie. As our readers might imagine, this sound is not your reviewer’s cup of tea, but The Departure’s new EP, Gateways is actually technically well-done, so said reviewer will attempt to be as fair as possible. Even if the next 500 words or so are difficult to write due to cringe-induced hand cramps.
So let’s get the bothersome things about Gateways out of the way, and I am well aware that these are subjective. 1. A proliferation of major chords. In the opening track of Gateways, “For the Best”, the first minute 20 is a long string of happy pappy guitar chords. Are they executed well? Yes. Do they make my black heart want to flee in fear and anger? Also yes. This is a theme throughout the EP, though the guitar playing, syncopation and composition of the musical parts are clean and technically well-executed.
2. Chipmunk/Blink 182/Emo vocals. While vocalist Ryan DeBlanc’s voice is well-pitched and fairly melodic, the whiny, emo timbre of it just does not do it for this reviewer. As a bitter GenXer, I was around when punk started to go the way of emo pop, and it was quite traumatic. I don’t think I’ve ever recovered. Also, since the guitars and Dylan Proesch’s synths are metal/classical and the bass and drums are metal-based, the vox just isn’t tuned to these styles. Only a few bands have been able to pull this off: 30 Seconds to Mars and Seremedy, and to be clear Seremedy was doing it half ironically.
That’s really all I’ve got, but it’s enough to severely annoy and get my “good old days” hocks up. Not everyone has the same taste parameters, and there are certainly plenty of people who like the whole rock for rock’s sake/we can be emotional rockers style rock, and I realize that if it’s executed well, I can’t complain too much (except for the preceding 300 words, of course).
Gateways is, by and large, executed very well. We should also remember that the lion’s share of The Departure’s members are under age 20. They still have a lot of time to develop their sound, and considering the level of technical prowess they’re starting out with, they could really go anywhere. As was previously stated, the guitar work by DeBlanc, Aiden McDonald and Max Hedding is well-timed, has interesting syncopation twists and a fun, throwback 80s metal style. Though they don’t name it in their influences list, some Brendon Small or even Children of Bodom can be detected in songs like the afore-mentioned “For the Best” and the album’s closer, “Thoughts”.
There is a lot of diversity on Gateways as well. The title track combines some of my much lusted after minor keys, classical synths from Proesch and a more gravely timbre from DeBlanc’s vocals. This mix makes me almost forgive the over-emoing Sum 41-style vox, and the band very nearly pulls off a more cohesive 30 Seconds to Mars-type sound.
Also along the diversity vein: two songs, “The Sea Part II” and “Lonely Eyes” are so different from the rest of the album that they could be called departures (pardon the pun). “Lonely Eyes” goes for a smooth, slightly folkish acoustic vibe where the guitars are also very well done. I will not comment on the vocals on this one. Sorry, I just can’t get past the Good Blink 41 crap. “The Sea Part II”, however, is arguably the best track on the album. This song seems to cede control to Proesch’s keyboards and almost goes full-on industrial for a moment, which actually seems to suit both the guitars and DeBlanc’s vocals. I was especially happy to hear some cookie monster growls in the middle of the track, which, by the way, LeBlanc is perfectly capable of doing despite his young age. Gavin Allien’s drums are also heavily featured here, and the track shows him to be a more than proficient metal/industrial drummer. Why don’t you just go all the way industrial/metal, The Departure? Why? You’re so good at it!
For being teens from Salt Lake City, Utah, the members of The Departure come off as competent and talented on this, their debut EP. The industry has certainly recognized their talent, as they’ve already played a number of big rock festivals and opened for the likes of Phantogram and The Cold War Kids. If this is the way they’re starting off their careers, The Departure will likely do just fine and despite my grumbling about style, this band has a lot of heart and even more talent and it comes across in a well-measured and well-executed way on Gateways.
Oct 17 2016
Writer and contributor on Brutal Resonance
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