Album Review: No Motiv – “Winterlong”

A lot has changed in the seven years since we last heard from No Motiv. The Oxnard, CA, four-piece first made a name for themselves opening for Face to Face on the latter band’s ill-fated tour for “Ignorance is Bliss” back in 1999, and were (for a while, anyway) the longest-running member of the Vagrant Records family. Their last release, 2004’s “Daylight Breaking,” brought the band their most success. But then they disappeared, going several years at a time without performing or, really, making much noise whatsoever. They were emo before emo was emo, and certainly before emo turned into whatever it became in the years since they got started.

Since No Motiv’s last release, the traditional record-label model of making of music has all but completely collapsed on itself, MySpace emerged as a social networking monster and a legitimate platform for artists to upload their music to the masses, only to also be wiped from the face of the earth by the facebooks and the bandcamps of the world. We’ve also witnessed scenes pop up and change drastically, particularly where what we used to call ‘emo’ music is concerned, while the tastes of the teenage pop-culture consumers have changed in seemingly unpredictable ways (remember when the fluorescent-clad, friendship-bracelet-wielding fourteen-year-old set used to listen to bubblegum pop?).

Alas, No Motiv has finally reemerged with the six-song EP “Winterlong.” From the opening howl that kicks off album opener “Beginning from the End,” No Motiv make a forceful announcement of their return to the game (not to mention drawing looks of horror and bewilderment from your co-workers). The song hits pretty hard, with former bassist Roger Camaro now pushing the tempo behind the drum kit, joining new(er) bassist Jeff Hershey in solidifying a tight, no-nonsense rhythm section behind the dueling distorted melodic power chord attack of Max McDonald and Jeremy Palaszewski, who doubles as the bands frontman. “No yesterdays, no past, just present” Palaszewski sings in his trademark tenor, simultaneously echoing sentiments that may involve a relationship with a significant other and the relationship between band members.

“Bled” follows in dark, heavy, minor-chord fashion, drawing much of its influence from the Tool end of the metal spectrum, dealing with the idea of losing one’s identity over and over again. The song’s bridge section is mellow and stripped down, bordering on ‘shoegazer.’ “Once Again Sundays” begins with a riff that is eerily reminiscent of an old Cold song (yes, the Fred Durst discovered nu-metal band), though Cold always had a penchant for writing clean, swirling melodies, so that’s not a bad thing. Another song with a decent, stripped down, atmospheric bridge section that focuses on Palaszewski’s vocals.

“Dead As The Day” starts on a down-tempo, melodic note, which continues through the verse and pre-chorus, but increases in intensity through the chorus sections. I wasn’t quite sure of it through the first listen, but it has quickly become a personal favorite, due to the hard, raw, aggressive tone that it finally develops. “In You” is also a little more on the melodic side, and not as aggressive, though it is equal parts haunting and introspective at different points, with lyrics that (again) ponder a relationship gone bad. “Deathwish” closes “Winterlong” in much the same way that the EP began; aggressive and driven steadily forward by the rhythm section, who never let off the gas pedal while the guitars alter between muted and heavy. (A slight bone to pick: I’m not sure exactly how they recorded the kick drum, but whatever mic they used makes it sound incredibly thin and almost like an electronic click-track; really the only negative I could find on the album).

Whatever you’d call No Motiv at this point (maybe emo, not quite punk, not quite metal, not quite melodic hardcore), their sound is as solid as it has ever been. “Winterlong” doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it does prove that there is still room in the game for the old guard in the emo game (or whatever we’re calling them now…probably something along the lines of melodic post-hardcore, but who knows).  4.5/5

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