name - ...You Are Mostly Nowhere
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One day, name was to appear on the American Metalcore Project, our examination/celebration/reevaluation of the history of metalcore and all the fantastic, underappreciated bands in the genre. They and their 2010 record Internet Killed the Audio Star were a major impetus for the AMP, as it was one of the first obscure records I stumbled upon when I began taking my metalcore more seriously, as well as one of the most eye-opening records I’ve encountered in heavy music, period. At the risk of undercutting that future entry for Internet Killed the Audio Star, it’s a melting pot of every phase of -core that precedes it, recklessly blending the sounds of early deathcore, melodic metalcore, and metallic hardcore and just about everything in between; it’s a record eager to break as many rules as possible in its pursuit of original expression, and it fundamentally altered my notions of what metalcore could accomplish.
In the abstract, it doesn’t even feel right to call it metalcore, but rest assured that it is: for all its enthusiastic genre-smashing, the bad bits don’t always filter out, leading to misplaced death growls, awkward transitions, and a general glut of material that leaves the album a little bloated and difficult to digest. Only after multiple listens do its missteps begin to make sense as the price of conceptual ambition, but that doesn’t change the fact that the parts of the album intended to be timely and subversive are too on-trend to age well. Conversely, these mistakes cannot detract from the album’s flawless centerpiece “Empathic Communicator,” a four-part suite that edges dangerously close to revolutionary. Each part is longer than the last, growing sequentially more daring and complex as the piece mutates and restructures to accommodate new idiosyncrasies, but always with an eye toward its goal.
In the seven intervening years between it and ...You Are Mostly Nowhere, this is the songwriting name have honed to a fine edge, lopping off the excess and uniting their vast stable of inspirations and talents to achieve a singular goal: overwhelming the listener. Their prior approach was to bombard with virtuosic technicality and the sheer breadth of musical ground they could cover in a single go, like an unsmiling Between the Buried and Me on a lot of PCP. This could be effective, too: outside of “Empathic Communicator,” “Mare” and “Dave Mustaine” are towering examples of name’s abilities as songwriters and musicians, both songs home to the sorts of genius passages that would make another band’s career. But excess is excess, and the band have learned to recognize what’s necessary and what’s not, leading to a couple of significant differences between Audio Star and Mostly Nowhere. The most obvious is the runtime, nearly halved from eighty minutes to a more manageable forty-two; less visible is a refinement of ethos, which bassist Jeremy Fareas explained to Metal Injection as a desire to “sound as if the band were a huge ensemble and not just a 3 piece group, trying to push the sonic landscapes until they were bursting at the seams.”
From the first cymbal strokes on “Adsum - Symptoms of a Leveling Design,” name deliver on that implicit promise. With the shortest runtime on the record, it still feels just as densely woven as any of the album’s later epics, re-introducing us to the band in after the seven-year wait in style. Plenty has changed. The influence of jazz and funk is more prominent in the band’s sense of rhythm and the intuitive dynamic between drummer and bassist, and the guitar work has moved on from showboat technicality to expressionistic wizardry. Although there are plenty of pummeling riffs and metallic shrieks in the first half of “Adsum” and “When Ocean Meets Sky - Cutting Corners In A Circle,” the band wasn’t kidding about pushing sonic landscapes: as the runtimes grow, so does the album’s sense of drama and mystery. “By Jaw & Fang” drops plenty of hints of what’s to come, but for all its virtues (including vocalist Jeremy Fareas’s Matt Holt-ish singing), it’s a view from the precipice, as far as I’m concerned, before the album’s half-hour plunge into the well of inspiration.
I wouldn’t call “Ode to the Colossus - The Giant of Circumstance” a single, although it was released ahead of the album as an exclusive Metal Injection stream, but it does provide a comprehensive ten-minute insight into the record, and comes out as one of the album’s greatest achievements. It’s a certified banger in terms of songwriting and technicality, but there are dozens of bands we can approach in this manner. Name are a little different. I don’t mean to be pretentious; I genuinely believe that name write and play metal like a jazz band without having to splice in explicit jazz passages (or rarely doing so) to prove it. There’s a clear-eyed, irresistibly free spirit to the band’s playing that transcends instrumental proficiency and the clinical process of musical “arrangement,” lending ...You Are Mostly Nowhere both cinematic scope and small-time intimacy even as it’s pulping your face. Although it’s possible to make stylistic comparisons to Botch, Tool, and Prehistoricisms-era Intronaut, these are jumping-off points, only circumstantially worthwhile--at worst, misleading. I’m hard-pressed to imagine another band that could pull off a song like the multipart “Bailey Cedric” with the same gymnastic grace and unflappable cool, or “When Ocean Meets Sky” with such operatic drama, and not also come across as tiresomely indulgent.
I’ve long believed that trios are the key to great metal. Baring Teeth, Coroner, Vitriol, Dying Fetus, Primitive Man, and many more I’m not listing (or simply forgetting) are stylistically distant relatives of name, but the company in which I would comfortably place them after more than a dozen listens to ...You Are Mostly Nowhere, and climbing. While not nearly as brutal as any of those bands, their songwriting is complex and arresting, and their music far larger than only three people should be able to produce. At times, I’m reminded of Hypo5e’s Shores of the Abstract Line in its epic sweep, at other times Amia Venera Landscape’s The Long Procession in its unity of vision. These, incidentally, are two of my favorite records, and it’s no stretch to imagine that ...You Are Mostly Nowhere could someday join them. For now, it sits comfortably among my favorite records of 2017.