Album: Lost Lights – EP
It wasn’t curiosity that killed the cat—it was complacency. As deadly as any drop of poison and as grave as any gunshot to the head, complacency is, more or less, a death sentence. Because of this, metalcore as we know it is practically seated in it’s electric chair, condemning itself to it’s own death sentence—with very little stopping it from flicking the switch on its originality—and subsequent life. One of the few bands keeping it from pulling the trigger—from entering the downward spiral of monotony and stagnancy—is Ohio’s Contentions, and their latest EP Lost Lights. Written on a foundation of gritty, crunchy riffs, intense and addictive grooves with detailing of stellar, soft crooned vocals, Lost Lights is a brilliant release that—true enough—may not redefine the genre by any means, certainly shines brighter than most of its contemporaries.
Lost Lights kicks off with an all-or-nothing assault on the listener—launching at them with claws sharpened and fangs bared, an instrumental lion which threatens to rip the still-beating heart from the listener’s chest. Contentions make this rampantly clear with “Empty Promises,” a catchy-yet-crushing combination of punchy, pulverizing hardcore and inventive post-hardcore riffing and song structure that is as catchy as chlamydia. Contentions batter the listener with an in-your-face percussive attack and fretwork that ranges from technical, high-fretted and atmospheric to grimy, groovy, and down-right heavy. While “Empty Promises” displays this prominently, so does “A Bridge Now Burned,” a track that lectures in lacerating, limb-shredding heaviness uncharacteristic of the post-hardcore/metalcore blend Lost Lights exemplifies.
Conversely, moments of Lost Lights find Contentions dabbling in the melodic and soothing—especially the post-hardcore tinted ballad “Hollow Vessel,” which is lyrically brilliant (albeit instrumentally uninspired) and portions of the EP’s title track, “Lost Lights.” These sections favor crooned, clean vocals which dip the listener in cool, languid pools of harmony after being cut, scraped, bruised and broken by “Empty Promises” and “The Broken Path,” two of the album’s more intense and straightforward tracks. Where the vocals dip into easy, smooth sailing, the instrumentation follows suit, toggling from stuttering, stop-start chugs and low-down-and-dirty grooves into looping, skyward-bound riffs and splashy, cymbal heavy percussion. These elements ebb and flow into one another with remarkable fluidity and stunning precision to make Lost Lights an immersive and fluid mosaic model of post-hardcore and metalcore.
In fact, it is aspects of Lost Lights—like its uncanny ability to get unexpectedly heavy, or flow with the utmost of ease—that truly set it apart. However, no amount of brilliant song structure or above-average songwriting can distract the listener from the fact that what Contentions bring to the table is, well, nothing inherently new. True, it isn’t as copy-and-paste sounding as countless other bands responsible for sentencing metalcore to death, and everything Contentions do is done with remarkable effort and uncanny zeal, but, at the end of the day, Lost Lights doesn’t completely succeed in guiding metalcore and post-hardcore back onto a path destined for originality. Rather, it is a comprehensive display of mastery concerning the genre’s existing elements: the breakdowns are sinister and relentless, the grooves filthy and merciless and the harmonies soaring and catchy. On top of it all, the vocal effort on Lost Lights is top-notch, making it an engaging, fun—if not slightly two-dimensional—listen.
No—Lost Lights isn’t the beacon metalcore needs to be it’s savior, and it isn’t the most memorable release the genre has ever seen. But, that shouldn’t stop the potential listener from giving Contentions a whirl. For Lost Lights is just the beacon the listener needs to guide them towards a path in conventional “post-metalcore” mastery.
For Fans Of: Sirena, Memphis May Fire, InDirections, Whether, I.
By: Connor Welsh