EP Review: I Am The Owl – “A Mission to Civilize: Part I”

After featuring this four piece melodic hardcore act from Fort Collins, Colorado a few months back in our Hidden Gems article, I was asked to review their debut EP A Mission to Civilize: Part I , an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I’ve always had an attraction to younger, burgeoning acts. There’s something intriguing about getting to follow them on their journey as they grow as a band, witnessing the progression, milestones and maturation along the way. This is one of those acts that I am eager to take the trek with. They already excel on so many levels, music composition probably being the most notable, but beyond that, their ceiling is astronomically high. The six track, twenty-five minute long album is also expertly mixed with each track seated logically, creating congruency from song to song. For it being their debut album, they’ve also shown that production quality won’t be a problem either. Check out the full review of this emerging act’s breakthrough debut EP below!

The opening track, “Thoughts and Prayers” starts precipitously, with a low pitched, droning guitar riff as the acerbic, lo-fi vocals kick in a few short seconds later. One of the defining traits of this fledgling foursome are the vocals, which are stunted, almost spoken, in a caustic, snotty tone more than actually sung, reminding me of Cerebral Ballzy front man, Honor Titus. The lyrics, as with all of their songs, are simple but potently political, biting narratives on the state of our crumbling society. The highlight of the track is most assuredly the face melting guitar solo about halfway through which shows off the bands’s metal influence exquisitely. If the unique vocals are a defining feature of this act, the dexterity that the Joshes (Rivera and Harrelson) display on dual guitars is what sets them apart from their contemporaries.

For another example of this, look no further than the second track, “Disgrace” where their acumen is on display once again. It features heavy distortion on the guitars as they mingle around the high notes near the end of the song. Dancing skillfully through tightly crafted, lightning quick riffs, these riffs are one of the highlights of the the entire EP. The vocals throughout sound like they’re being shouted through a megaphone, as if their purpose was to kick off a revolution at a protest, reminding me of Rage Against the Machine in that way. As a punk purist, it’s odd that this is one of my favorite tracks, it being the least punk song on the album clocking in at four and a half minutes and featuring more whammy than a game of Press Your Luck.

Although most of the songs take on a melodic hardcore timbre, there are a few that show this quartet’s willingness to get outside of their comfort zone. “No Turning Back” compares to a traditional three chord punk anthem as does “Take It Back” which is also one of the more overtly political songs. The tempo in both adopts an orthodox, authentic punk cadence (the latter coming in as the quickest track) and  is probably the most well written song on the EP (We’re one nation under fraud/ Blood and oil is our god/ On the broken backs they’ve trod/ We use this as a lightening rod).

Showing some more variety and musical influence, a few of the songs take a metal or hard rock tone more so than punk or melodic hardcore. “Brother vs Brother” has energetic, technically sound guitar riffs and is a good minute longer than a standard punk tune. This track has a classic, hard rock sound which diverges (albeit not far) from their more familiar sound. Stick around for some sick bass licks at the end of this one. “Ghost” may be the most divergent track on the EP. The vocals are actually sung or at least more than they are in the other songs, but it’s also way more aggressive and dark, having a death metal vibe to it.

While the music composition itself covered good ground and showed excellent overall range, I would like to see a little more variety in the vocals. Perhaps just a slightly harder push to broaden the spectrum and add a little complexity or harmonization to keep things fresh. While the vocals could show a more diversity, there is no shortage passion or ability to evoke emotion and that’s really what it’s about. There’s no doubt in my mind that these boys can make the small adjustments needed to improve and evolve. Throughout the entire review, I had to keep reminding myself that these guys are exceptionally green and still have some growing to do because of such high levels in production quality and musicianship. The fact that I had to constantly level set my expectations was what impressed me the most and speaks volumes to how much talent theses guys have and how much more they are still capable of. There is a ton of potential here and a lot of it is already on display with this freshman offering, as it’s light years ahead of others at a similar milepost.

3/5 Stars

FFO: Sick of It AllRage Against the Machine; Comeback Kid

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