Album: Santa Muerte– EP
When one thinks of a franchise, they probably think of a multi-million dollar machine made of corporate greed that runs on the hard-earned money of the unthinking masses. They probably think of McDonalds, Burger King, Starbucks and Exxon-Mobil. They likely don’t think of unbridled passion, heart-rendering emotion and frantic, energetic post-hardcore anthems—which is exactly what New Jersey’s Franchise are all about. With their latest EP, Santa Muerte, Franchise hit the listener like a ten-ton defibrillator, sending megatons of moving, melodic—yet shocking—emotion into their rib cage, sending the listener’s heart into convulsions. Combining catchy, dissonant chords, frenzied drumming, quick time changes and vocals that range from crooned clean singing to throat-shredding shouts, Santa Muerteis a stellar example of a modern post-hardcore outline being filled in with a myriad influences ranging from catchy, innocent alternative rock and emotive, expressive skramz with a tasteful, contemporary twist.
Santa Muerteis saved from the standard pitfalls of modern post-hardcore’s bland instrumentation by finding itself at a bizarre crossroads that few other bands have ever navigated. One part quick, punchy hardcore, one part splashy, spastic noise and one part serene, subtle post-rock, Franchise are a curious quartet that refuse to adhere to any sort of genre stereotype. Percussionist CorradoRizzi is Franchise’s rambunctious core, a quickly beating and arrhythmic heart that sends fresh blood into Franchise’s flesh. “Letters to my Friends” sees him at his most sporadic and unpredictable, transitioning from off-kilter blast beats to groovy, galloping kick drum patterns with hardly a moment’s notice. “Counting Backwards” is similar, while “To the Greatest Love I Will Never See” sees him slowing down and transitioning much more carefully, working hand-in-hand with bassist Mark Costa to provide a masterful foundation for the tracks over-the-top emotional content. Here, Rizzi and Costa calm their churning, writhing sea of musical expression into a catchy, tame series of ebbing waves that build into a single, climactic tidal wave—with the addition of riffs and harmonious chords from guitarist Edgar Martinez. Martinez—while much more careful with his instrumentation than Rizzi—lends loads of languishing emotion and energy to each track. “Figure A” and “To the Greatest Love I Will Never See” see him more serene and subtle, but, like Rizzi, he lets loose on the latter half of the EP, swarming the listener’s ears with a series of jagged, jarring and dissonant chords and riffs that rattle inside the listener’s head like a shaken beehive.
Where Franchise’s instrumentation is a quixotic blend of energy and serenity, the band’s vocal element is another display of devilishly crafty diversity. Frontman Kenny Ramirez—a new face to Franchise’s ranks—is nothing short of unbelievable. Somewhere between Pianos Become the Teeth’s harsh, barking shout and Saves the Day’s nasally, catchy croon, Ramirez roams from expertly yelled harsh vocals to energetic singing in an effort to hammer home every syllable of breath-takingly beautiful lyrics he has penned for Santa Muerte. Whether it’s the closing refrain to “To the Greatest Love I Will Never See” or the jarring shouts and screams throughout “Elevator Music” and “An Introduction to the First Day of Living,” Ramirez is a rollicking roller coaster of lyrical prowess and vocal expertise. His talent lies not only in the ability to write moving elegies that maintain a poetic candor, but also in his delivery of each line—perfectly matching the atmosphere of each second of instrumentation—something exceptionally difficult to achieve given the bizarre amalgam of styles that influence the quartet’s musicianship.
The combination of Franchise’s frantic instrumentation and expert vocal efforts makes Santa Muertea stellar release that demands attention from any fan of emotional, energetic music. From the first seconds of “Figure A,” Santa Muerteis as catchy as it is creative, using brilliant vocal patterns and punchy instrumentation to instill infectious lyrics and riveting rhythms into the listener’s brain. Franchise prove themselves experts at matching their brainy, heart-felt shouts, screams and sing-songy choruses to appropriate portions of their diverse and fluid post-hardcore anthems with a polished, practiced prowess that only veterans of the scene would be expected to achieve. Whether it’s lyrics that will bring a tear to your eye or songs that will stay ingrained in your brain, Santa Muerteis a 2015 must-have.
For Fans Of: Saves the Day, Pianos Become the Teeth, Touché Amore, Prestige
By: Connor Welsh