Artist: As Artifacts
Album: In Blood and Light – EP
Like many of their fans, I feared the worst when California’s resident post-hardcore poster children As Artifacts remained silent following the release of their acclaimed debut full length, Strong Hands. 2013 saw the band reawaken—briefly—for the release of “Bloodlines,” a single that did little to quench the band’s fans and their thirst for new material. 2013 came to a close and 2014 passed with precious little in the way of news for the band—as did a great majority of 2015. Despite promises of “new music” and “things in the works,” many—myself included—feared this would be the premature end to a band with prodigal talent in a packed genre.
Fortunately, we were wrong.
In Blood and Light is the anxiously anticipated return by this Bay Area bunch, showcasing their sturdy, solid metallic foundation with ample doses of post-rock and post-hardcore influence to add diversity and dynamism to their sound. The question remains: are As Artifacts too late? Has the style that skyrocketed them to relative infamy passed, leaving them stranded on Nostalgia Island?
Fortunately, no. Not satisfied with spending three years on In Blood and Light with nothing to show for it, As Artifacts’ sound has fully matured from catchy, crushing angst to intelligent, innovative song structure with plenty to separate themselves from their peers. From the opening seconds of “Denouement,” percussionist Michael Yankovich is, in a word, unpredictable. Hammering the listener into submission with raunchy, rollicking verses and decimating the tempo with devastating breakdowns, Yankovich is the cantankerous, steady heartbeat behind As Artifacts that refuses to falter. Throughout “Reaper” and “Dead and Gone,” Yankovich keeps the listener on their toes—one minute roaring along at a mile-per-minute pace, the next playing in bouncy, girthy patterns that see him harmonize excellently with guitarists Julian Canales and David Granillo. In lieu of a bassist, it’s up to Canales and Granillo to simultaneously provide a flattening low end and an intriguing, entrancing series of leads that roam from ethereal to earth-shaking. While it is no simple feat, the duo manage to make it look as such. “Denouement” and “Dead and Gone” especially see Canales and Granillohitting the heavy notes just as expertly as they lay down atmosphere and ambience. “Ephemeral” sees them embrace the atmospheric (perhaps too atmospheric, at that), providing the EP with a lengthy, albeit unnecessary interlude. Together with Yanovich rumbling underneath, Canales and Granillo give the listener more variety on In Blood and Light than they did throughout all of Strong Hands, with several lengthy tracks—“Denouement” and “Idle Hands” especially—serving as excellent examples.
As Artifacts’ reputation for “heavy, then chill” continues with the work of their bassist, Lane Farmer—assisted by Granillo at times. Farmer dominates In Blood and Light with a bitter, earthy scream that shreds the listener’s ear drums with blistering intensity and aggressive lyricism to match. “Denouement” is—once more—an stand-out example, but Farmer’s voice and lyricism reach an all-time high throughout “Dead and Gone,” where catchy passages clash against grating, aggressive yells for domination of the listener’s attention span. Farmer’s voice soars during cleanly sung choruses and bridges, yet still manages to scathe the listener during a number of bone-snapping breakdowns that punctuate the release and serve as releases to the energetic, melodic build ups witnessed during “Reaper,” “Idle Hands” and especially the instrumental interlude “Ephemeral.” Farmer may not have a chart-topping singing voice, or the genre’s grittiest, most grotesque screams, but he does both harsh and clean vocals excellently, allowing him to serve as the frontman for As Artifacts’ diverse soundscape.
While the lengthy tracks and full-bodied run time on In Blood and Light give the listener no shortage of new material to sink themselves in to, there are moments where As Artifacts may get in a bit too far over their heads. The biggest example of this is the Caspian-esque post-rock anthem “Ephemeral.” To be blunt, a six-minute interlude on a six-track EP is at least three minutes too long. With over-ambient droning effects serving as a majority of the interlude’s content, “Ephemeral” is simply out of place. The brief climax to the torturous build-up hardly justifies the song’s length, and would be better off cut into a third of its existing length. Even as “Ephemeral” is the only glaring flaw on In Blood and Light, it is also the single longest song on As Artifacts’ EP, when it’s existence at all is debatable—as it does nothing but get the listener excited for another one of the band’s enthralling anthems only to hang them with their own expectations.
If you’ve been waiting for As Artifacts to let loose with their sequel to Strong Hands, or maybe just been wishing Like Moths to Flames would grow up just a little, In Blood and Light is an EP you need to listen to before you assemble your best-of-2015 list. Excessive atmosphere apart, it is an exciting release for any fan of post-hardcore and metalcore, serving as the return of a band who do it better than most of their peers.
For Fans Of: Like Moths to Flames, In Fear and Faith, Confide, For All I Am
By: Connor Welsh