Hardcore is passion devoid of pretense. For better or worse, it dismisses much of what makes music musical. Harmony and melody are stripped away along with complex arrangements and superfluous solos. Singing, and all of the technique it takes to do it well, are thrown out in favor of the raw shouted free verse poetry of the masses. Urgency and passion aren’t something you can synthesize, and hardcore strives toward the most organic, the most base of human emotions. So, there’s always a bit of unease when talking about melodic hardcore and its relation to its father genre. Everything hardcore does to distance itself from popular music, melodic hardcore goes back to undo. Lie Captive makes me think a lot about the two genres. While undoubtedly a melodic hardcore band, it practically begs me to review it in hardcore clichés. Loud, fast, and perhaps my favorite–blistering, all come to mind when listening to Lie Captive’s debut album, “The Hopeless North.” But it also makes me mentally weigh the relationship between our perception of melody as pop accessibility and its uneasy existence in punk rock.
Chords, both guitar and vocal, rip through any semblance of complacency on “The Hopeless North”’s second track, “Judas Like The Last Time.” Lie Captive’s idiosyncrasies and stylistic traits all come to light in this song. Melodic, technical guitar riffs permeate the track, made all the more impressive by the fact that Lie Captive is a power trio with only one guitarist. For the most part, the bands recorded sound stays true to this by using few guitar overdubs. The vocals are mostly provided by bassist Tyler Oliver, who provides the gruff, immediate, and melodic voice that has now become something of a requirement in melodic punk bands. He plays the part well though, and his voice remains pleasing for the duration of the album.
The lyrics on this album cover a range of emotions but always seems to come back to the age old we-got-to-get-outta-this-town motif. Two passages in the album’s title track come to mind, “Leaving home is always half the struggle, No matter how much we complain. Every day that rolls past us, Is another our lives stay the same.” Although this kind of sentiment has been beaten to death over the years, Lie Captive manages to actually use it as an overarching theme within the album, not just a throwaway line that expresses generic brand alienation. Later in the same song, they flirt with transcendence by making a pretty decent observation, “The more you know, The harder it gets, To make the best of every, Forced relationship.” What strikes me most is the realization of how little control we have over the surroundings we’re brought into. Anywhere we live is a forced relationship until we take the power away from our surroundings and choose to get away from all of the this-towns in America and make choices toward our own destinies.
“The Hopeless North” is Lie Captive’s first full length, and in it they display a competency, not to mention ferocity, that many melodic hardcore bands simply grasp at. They manage to write a catchy, accessible record that pushes the genre forward, albeit with small flourishes. The reclaiming of melody is something to embrace because it gives our music a subversive edge that before was a subversive hammer. Lie Captive’s debut is fast, loud, and yes–blistering; a solid reminder that hardcore clichés are just as relevant in the face of musical transition.