With a debut album planned for the latter part of the year we thought it was worth checking out the Still Life EP from US hardcore band American Standards. It may have been out a while but as possibly many, like us, missed its initial unveiling and it is so damn good there is no better time to catch up and fire up a hunger for the forthcoming full length release.
From Phoenix, Arizona, the quartet of vocalist Brandon Kellum, guitarist Brennen Westermeyer, bassist Corey Skowronski, and drummer Geoff Gittleson, has earned a strong reputation for their live performances and sound which though we called them a hardcore band takes in many more potent essences such as punk and noise rock. It is a riveting confrontation and at times borders unleashing disorientation with its passion bred intensity and creative maelstrom. The unpredictable and diverse imagination to its invention though is an easy capture of the imagination with band and sound having the depth and flavours to ignite the appetite of all fans from the likes of Cancer Bats and Every Time I Die through to those of Dead Kennedys and on to devourers of the kind of noise the likes of Coilguns, Retox, and Blood Brothers conjure. Since forming the band has toured extensively across the US especially through 2012, playing with bands such as Sick Of It All, Trial, Touché Amore, and Joyce Manor and making successful appearances at numerous festivals including Within These Walls, The Punk Rock Picnic, and inFEST. Since the release of Still Life, American Standards has signed with Victory Records for the new album and continued to explode stages with their devastating sound.
Released via indie label We Are Triumphant, the EP opens with the brief and irresistibly caustic Self (En)titled, the track instantly attacking the ear with vocal venom and soon joined by an emerging rhythmic and sonic provocation. It is the perfect introduction to open up attention and set the wheels of intimidation and incitement in motion as it boils up into the following Raised By Wolves. Again the coarse vocals of Kellum seize the opening seconds, his delivery a harsh but excellent rub on the senses immediately wrapped in another fury of sonic and rhythmic challenge. There is an earthy groove soon in place to start a deeper contagion aided by group scowls and the enslaving beats of Gittleson but it is just the appetiser as the track explores veins of infectious alternative rock alongside rapacious riff greed to ignite greater flames of passion for its confrontation.
The close of the track also sees the bass of Skowronski develop a predatory throat to its growl which is scintillating and across subsequent tracks prowls and chews the senses and emotions with greater and more carnivorous glory starting with Bottom Feeder. A sonic tease comes with drum foot stomps to open up the fury, and is soon led into a jugular ripping primal assault, vocals and the guitar of Westermeyer scything through the air with acidic malevolence. The unexpected offering of clean vocals is another rewarding and pleasing element and tempers the sonic fire and bass/drum barbarity which threatens throughout.
Both Paradigm-Alt-Shift-Delete and Harvester continue drawing stronger impressed reactions to the release. The first is a tempest of metallic vengeance crafted by again excellent bass and drum vehemence further fuelled by the twisting guitar grooves and varied vocals which switch from seduction to antagonism note by note. With flames of noise rock and discord taunts, the song is a thrilling adventure of predacious design, senses and thoughts lured and exploited by the excellent enterprise and insidious invention of every element of song and band, especially that bass. Its successor is equally corrosive and eager to offload its sonic rabidity onto nerves and synapses, a ferocity driven by arcs of guitar sonically honed imagination, flesh searing vocals, and steel jawed basslines gnawing away from start to finish. Not for the first time American Standards take exciting detours from the assault, here vocal harmonies allowing breaths to be taken and passions to leap before the returning savagery brings a triumphant climax.
The release is completed by the fearsome punk goading of The Red Queen and the crawling intrusive primal chaos that is the title track, its opening lumbering gait evolving through oppressive washes of intensive rage vocally and musically and varying unpredictable pace changes. Again there is a constant flood of ideas and variations all successfully and seamlessly infused into the emotive furnace. The two tracks leave the richest impressions and satisfaction to confirm the release as something quite immense.
Rather than wait for, what on the evidence of the EP, will be an album to bring another striking and exciting provocation, we suggest the Still Life EP should be confronted right away and allowed to feast on thoughts and passions, and as a name your own price offer on their Bandcamp profile, American Standards have given an invitation impossible to refuse, especially when it one of the best hardcore releases to come along in the past year.
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