REVIEW: Change Is – Insomnia [2015]


Artist: Change Is

Album: Insomnia


The first couple nights without sleep weren’t hard—Hell, they weren’t even anything new. Days faded into nights, but each hour felt the same, constantly in a daze where you weren’t fully awake, but you weren’t tired enough to let rest overtake you. However, before long, your mind began to play tricks on you. Lights began to spark headaches—so you sought out the dark. Voices turned to sing-songy chants, hymns of your helplessness—so you avoided other people, hoping to block out any form of communication. Before long though, it didn’t matter—you began to hear voices though there wasn’t a moving mouth within a mile of your silent sanctuary. The voices created a harmony—morphed into song, forming the Michiganianquartet Change Is, assailing you with the aptly named debut full-length, Insomnia. Reminiscent of yesteryear’s Endeavors, Change Is are a catchy, contagious and lethal group of songsmiths that bewilder the listener with churning, grooving riffs and beat their brains out with bold, brutal breakdowns—making them a force of change that even time cannot slow or stop.

Change Is are found at the musical crossroads of experimental post-hardcore, noisy nu-metal and hard-hitting hardcore. Insomnia is aggressive enough to wake the neighbors and haunting enough to keep you from getting sleep. Percussionist Jeff Alcorta is especially talented at the former—smashing his thick, booming kick drum like a lumberjack splitting wood. Alcorta is an aggressive source of rhythm and ruthless heaviness that serves as Change Is’ cantankerous, quick-beating heart. “Eternal Sleep” may as well be named “Eternal Speed,” as Alcorta dots the track with devilishly quick flares of technicality. Meanwhile, “Loss” is a lurid lesson in Alcorta’s penchant for punchy, slower patterns—synchronizing beautifully with bassist Ben Collison to create crushing, anthemic breakdowns. Collison is a juggernaut of low, throbbing groove, coating each of Alcorta’s patterns with mud and muck, giving each snare crack and kick smack a heftier hit and more resounding roar, coming together to bolster the efforts of Dillon Leppien’s lacerating fretwork. Oftentimes a minimalist in nature, Leppien leaps hither and to across the fretboard, shearing the listener’s skin with sharp riffs on “False Psyche” and “5 Months,” yet embracing harmony and ethereality on the moving “’Til June.” Leppein’s minimalist nature shines on the beat-track “Ready to Turn In,” where his soft string work and trap-like beat let the vocals do what they do best.

When your sanity starts to slip away and the whispers of your conscience grow into grisly roars, there is one that stands out among them—one that steals the show and tells a story. That is the voice of Change Is’ Calvin Banning. Banning is a bold, brutish voice, adding emotion and energy to all aspects of Insomnia: be it the soft, sinister beat track, or his visceral roars on “Loss” and “Eternal Sleep.” Banning might not be the most versatile vocalist the nu-metalcore scene has ever witnessed, but he is certainly one of the most energetic and enduring. Banning bolts through “Insomnia” and “Set the Fire” both with remarkable aggression, while “Loss” is a catchy lesson in his brilliance with patterning and flow. Banning’s voice is entrancing all the way through “Haunted” and the emotional climax of “’Til June,” where he trades in aggression and anger for self-loathing, pity and compromising honesty.

Change Is are a multifaceted metalcore act who express aptitude with all manners of heavy music. Insomnia is as versatile as it is immersive, with “Eternal Sleep,” “Loss,” and “Haunted” all showcasing heaviness, catchiness and cunning displays of calculated savagery. Meanwhile, “’Til June” and “5 Months” are more subtle displays of dynamism, trading in aggression for atmosphere to catch the listener completely off guard. Finally, the quartet provide unexpected portions of rest that still keep the listener engrossed—especially “Ready to Turn In,” which will easily appeal to die-hard fans of Villains’ “Freudian Slip” or “Better off Alone.” Change Is are a versatile band that fill a large void in the grey area created by the gap between progressive post-hardcore and modern, murderous nu-metal.

Those mourning the loss of Endeavors should make it a priority to pay attention to Change Is: as this quartet take what one Michigan metal act started and improve it ten-fold, adding a more emotional and engaging original twist on it with Insomnia. Enraging, catchy and crushing—while admitting modest amounts of atmosphere and melody, this full length is one that will make countless sleepless nights not so dull.



For Fans Of: Endeavors, Villains, Gift Giver, Ground Tracer

By: Connor Welsh