Denver’s Muscle Beach offer a catchy brand of furious post-hardcore with enough eclectic embellishments to stand out from the pack.
In a continually crowded marketplace where hardcore and post-hardcore bands seemingly disappear as soon as they’ve arrived, it takes something special to get yourself noticed. A good place to start is to stockpile a veritable arsenal of hard riffs and possess a front man who sounds like he regularly gargles diesel oil and bits of gravel. Similarly, you should sound authentic. Throw every ounce of soul into every scream but maintain that air of mischievousness to leave the listener bruised and beaten but elated and satisfied. Thankfully, Muscle Beach contain that and more. They produce muscular, frenzied, ear-splitting post-hardcore but with an unshakable swagger and with hooks you could hang an oil tanker off.
The album launches with gleeful slabs of distortion on “Tiger Lily” with front man Justin Sanderson’s spine-tingling howl ripping through the chaos. The guitars are sharp and emphatic; beaten with furious abandon as if the band’s very lives depended on it. “Re-animators” struts and rolls with a cutting, glam punk riff, recalling Blcklisters and The Blood Brothers. The song provides a veritable feast of riffs with each more ferocious than the last. The kinds of riff that sounds like they could decimate a rain forest. Impressively, the band possess an infinite fleet of riffs, ready to deploy, seemingly at will. The phenomenally titled “Shark 22:Electric Boogaloo” features a stalking, circling figure, like a shark hunting it’s prey, before launching into a blisteringly violent aural assault. “Pressure Kills” highlights the band’s understanding of nuance as they increase and decrease the speed of the riffs, subtly altering the mood from festering rage to all out fury. “Hot Trash” storms and spits until collapsing into a head spinning, swirling maelstrom. It’s akin to suddenly finding yourself in the eye of the storm before being swept up by more savage winds.
Although each song is impressively stacked with fierce riffs and fierce vocals, the remaining members of the band are just as important to their sound. For example, “Eagle Wizard” is built on a cavalcade of slamming, marching drums, while “Front Steps” and “Gnarlitute” allow bassist Derek Arriata to show off his clunking, chunky sound. He provides a bowel shakingly solid anchor for the band to explode around him. The later song also features one of the best riffs on the album; a speeding, fireball that barrels along with reckless abandon. The band are also able to create enough space in their sound to justify the “post-harcore” tag. While they do share the DNA of post-hardcore legends Refused, they don’t incorporate any genre-defying experiments or off-kilter jazz influences. However, they are happy to take meaningful side-steps. Many of the longer songs feature more doomy, almost metal breakdowns while guitarist Sanderson is happy to layer on the effects, adding chorus or reverb. Nevertheless, these are fleeting pauses amongst the melee.
Muscle Beach have crafted a post-hardcore album built to last. They pack each song with riff upon riff but utilize them effectively, unafraid to play with time signatures or atmospherics. In doing so the album has more to offer the deeper you go. It is as volatile and unhinged as you would hope but often comes across as playful rather than malicious. An thrilling assault to the senses that leaves vibrations in the air long after it has finished.
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