Heavy guitars and throaty vocals have clearly supplanted poppy hooks and nasally whined vocals as the new punk rock cliche. Don’t get me wrong, I feel the new trend has its virtues. And I’m not the only one; there’s a reason the formula’s been repeated ad infinitum. Heart to Heart play in the vein of bands like Hot Water Music, Avail, and Make Do and Mend; and like those bands they play it well. Deathproof is a three song EP from Anchor Eighty Four Records, and while I must admit releases as short as this tend to leave me a little bitter, having three really good songs sweeten it up for me.
One of the strengths of Heart to Heart is their ability to write heavy sounding emo songs that incorporate a pop punk approach to melody while still keeping their sound firmly within the realm of aggressive punk rock. While the bear-like and throaty vocal style isn’t an instant antidote to some of the more obnoxious traits that tend to pop up, invade, and pervade the genre; in this case they are done well enough to suggest that when the singable melodies become screamable angst, it is done out of real and honest emotion, not through rehearsed technique.
“Requiem” is a fast, aggressive number that has heavy guitars blasting walls of sound, gritty vocals, and an awesome screaming crescendo that ends the song perfectly. The lead guitar inserts itself with riffs and melody in mind, but with enough restraint to never be considered ubiquitous, leaving its heavy rhythm section plenty of opportunities to shine. The next track, “Recollections,” most unique trait is its sound bite ridden bridge, that might just be the best use of the somewhat archaic flourish I’ve seen, even though I can’t for the life of me figure out what the sample’s from. Either way, “Recollections,” while slower than “Requiem,” is a strong contender for Deathproof’s best song. The third and final track, “Lessons,” is the least throaty of the trio but still has some pretty massive hooks, perhaps to make up for its relative lack of aggression. And while it may be my least favorite of the three, I can’t deny that it’s a good song and features some of the band’s best lyrics.
California punk rockers, Heart to Heart, are building a sound from a proud-and-proven lineage of semi-modern influences. That’s the kind of line I like to write when I want to dismiss a band as nicely as possible. But for once, that’s not really what I’m saying. Besides the mainstream media co-opting of the term ‘emo’ to describe a rash of pop punk bands in the early days of the millennium, emo has never actually seen popular success. Few bands play the style, therefore only a handful can be considered luminaries. The same goes for post-hardcore, which has been slightly more diverse but ultimately has had its namesake hijacked in similar ways. So, I can’t really blame Heart to Heart for pulling from the same old influences. Honestly, there’s just not that much diversity in the genre yet. That said, Heart to Heart’s Deathproof is a tease for an inevitable full length that I’m sure will make them one of the better bands to emerge from the Church of Hot Water Music. Until then, fans of emo laced melodic punk will have to satisfy themselves with this all too short introduction and rejoice in knowing that we surely haven’t seen the last of them.