Album Review: Placeholder – “Nothing Is Pure”

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Originally known as Coastal, Placeholder formed a year ago (March 2011) somewhere on the border of Pennsylvania and Maryland. The band got busy right away, self-releasing an EP in May. Billed as “emotionally intense post-hardcore,” their debut full-length, “Nothing is Pure,” was put out on Better Days Records in December.

“Nothing is Pure” opens with the album’s title track, which gradually builds from it’s Nine Inch Nails drum track inspired opening. What becomes clear almost immediately is that Placeholder are a band that bring a level of intensity and depth not generally witnessed in a band that is so green. The ‘heart-on-your-sleeve’ vocals (which bring to mind a post-hardcore Shane McGowan at times) drip with emotional sincerity, teetering on the edge of complete breakdown.

Percussion drives the album’s eleven tracks, generally keeping the throttle pinned. Much of the guitar work is of the brute force variety, with Placeholder opting for a wall of guitar sound rather than the at-times delicate melodies that a lot of newer post-hardcore bands tend to prefer. This leaves the album sounding “big,” a lesson in controlled, aggressive chaos.

“Resent” and “Written” are the best examples of Placeholder at their well-crafted best. The former is a classic, aggressive, post-hardcore track with great dynamic changes in sound. The former is perhaps a little more polished, but neither track sounds unlike scene staples Far and Further Seems Forever, with a touch of Finch thrown in for good measure.

“Dying For Nothing” is probably the album’s emotional highlight, and would have made a great album closer. Its chaotic crescendo leaves a tough act to follow, and while “Only Ever After” is certainly a fine, more down-tempo song, it feels more than a little anticlimactic and may have been better served to have been placed a little earlier on the album.

“Nothing is Pure” is an excellent debut album, released at a stage in their career where most bands are still determining whose parents will allow them to set up the drums in the garage. It is also the kind of album that takes a few listens to digest; my initial thought was to give it an even 3 out of 5 stars, but repeated listens have tipped the scale in the positive direction, a sign of great things to come for Placeholder.



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