REVIEW: Hollow Bones – Lionheart [2016]

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Artist: Hollow Bones

Album: Lionheart

 

I don’t know about you, but when I hear “hollow bones,” I think of something delicate—a bird, on a ledge in the midst of a maelstrom, unsure whether to risk flight or remain grounded and complacent. The sort of delicate that can only come with fear and the experience of failure, time and time again, establishing itself like a habit harder to break than smoking or biting your nails. I think of something fragile enough to constant fear being broken, but just strong enough to survive every traumatizing blow, left marked with memories of just how much it hurt.

But with New York melodic hardcore outfit Hollow Bones, delicate is just about the furthest thing from what you get.

Their latest full length album, Lionheart, is a towering, fearsome testament to the product of unbridled emotion and unyielding aggression. Hollow Bones expertly blend crunchy, groovy heaviness with catchy, creative choruses and complex vocal dynamics to create a wonderfully unique album that sounds like a bouncy hybrid between Defeater’s Empty Days and Sleepless Nights and August Burns Red’s Found in Far Away Places. Those seeking a thoughtful amalgam of aggression and awe-inspiring beauty need look no further, as Hollow Bones have practically perfected it with Lionheart.

Where “melodic hardcore” brings to mind pictures of bouncy, plain riffs strung together with chuggy, sound-the-same breakdowns for many heavy music enthusiasts, Lionheart is a release that breaks the mold in the same manner a shotgun shell might rip through a sheet of parchment paper. Hollow Bones take dry, grating tones and infuse them with equal parts jazzy, post-rock or post-hardcore undertones along with earth-shaking, ear-melting dissonance. Percussionist Connor Warren keeps the act moving along at a steady, strong candor, rarely stealing the show with snappy, sharp fills but constantly providing a fun, bouncy foundation for both brutality and beauty. “Wandering Sparrow” and “The November Diaries” both are examples of Warren letting loose, hammering the listener with hurried, hectic patterns that inflict seeping lacerations in mere moments. Consequentially, the following track, “Lionheart: Execution,” as well as the catchy “Lionheart: Sonder” see Warren letting up on the gas ever so slightly, taking time to slow down from circle-pit inducing patterns and harmonizing more intricately with bassist Kyle Cullen (no relation to the sparkling vampire with the same surname). Cullen’s deep, cutting bass grooves are a key factor for Hollow Bones’ dynamic—something not many bands can say when it comes to bass guitar. Where Cullen may not be as loudly mixed or prominent as either of the other two guitarists on Lionheart, he makes each breakdown on the album every ounce as heavy as it should be to truly stand out from the quicker, catchier portions of the release. “The November Diaries” is a raunchy example of this—as is the closing track, “A Murder of Crows,” while “Wolfcrone” and “The Altruistic Lung” are more mixed examples of Cullen’s ability to flow between low, grimy heaviness and smooth, groovy quickness—an ability that is reflected with the skills of guitarists Andrew Formale and Sharon Malfesi. Make no mistake—where Warren and Cullen are enormous assets to Hollow Bones, the main musical interest on Lionheart is a product of Formale and Malfesi’s fretwork. Imagine Defeater’s quick, melodic strumming got into a multi-car pile-up with August Burns Red, Sworn In, Deftones and Dance Gavin Dance—maybe then you’ll begin to grasp the full spectrum of influences that fuel this dynamic duo. With “The November Diaries,” “A Murder of Crows” and “Drytooth” hitting like a series of seven-ton sledgehammers, all the while with “A Murder of Crows” and the “Lionheart” pair featuring jazzy, sharp and technical fretwork, there is no boundary to the diverse sounds and styles Formale and Malfesi employ on this release—making it well rounded, yet piercing and pointed.

If Lionheart’s musicianship is a strong, full heartbeat, then Hollow Bones’ vocal contributions add to it like a kilogram of uncut cocaine, sending the dynamic of the band through the roof. Frontman Patrick Anthony reigns supreme on Lionheart, providing an excellent range of raw, grating screams that are countered tastefully—yet powerfully—by Malfesi’s soaring singing voice. From the bitter, brash shouts that define “The November Diaries” (which you should be gathering is the album’s most aggressive song) to the back-and-forth interplay on “Lionheart: Sonder,” Malfesi and Anthony have a cast-iron dynamic that was formed on the debut record by Edenborn (the band’s original form) and hardened by experience and even more energy. There are times—specifically, the recurring chorus to “The Altruistic Lung”—where Malfesi seems ever-so-slightly out of place, but this doesn’t keep her catchy voice from getting ensnared in the listener’s mind all the same. Anthony and Malfesi are the vector through which Hollow Bones deliver their meaningful, powerful message—with songs focusing on cathartic, crushing aggression to commentary on society and what it is to “belong”—Hollow Bones’ lyrics are just as poignant as their musicianship: miraculously unique, chaotic and energetic.

Lionheart is, perhaps, the most fitting way to begin to describe what Hollow Bones truly sound like. Defiant, bold and devastatingly heavy, Lionheart demands to be heard not as another heavy-but-catchy band in the heavy music community, but as a band that lash out with every ounce of their essence. From the no-holds-barred onslaught in “The November Diaries,” to the soulful singing and sincere emotion in “Drytooth” and “I Watched the Snow Fall and Bury Your Bones,” Hollow Bones leave no stone unturned in their search to find new, different and enthralling ways to keep their listeners hooked on their sound. Like a drug that floods your veins, seizing complete control of your nervous system and taking over your mind, Lionheart dissolves through the thin skin in your ears and becomes a part of you that resides in every cell your body calls its own. Too strong to be refused and too loud to be ignored, Hollow Bones are a band that are dense with substance and heavy with heartfelt content, earning every ounce of their hefty praise.

 

9/10

For Fans Of: August Burns Red, Defeater, Like Moths to Flames, Structures, Hundredth

By: Connor Welsh