Album: Personas – EP
Modern science has done a pretty good job of providing sound explanations for even some of the universe’s most abstruse phenomena. Between theories of Brownian motion and conventional concepts involving quantum mechanics and particle tunneling, one would think science has a way of rationalizing the behavior of just about any natural occurrence life can throw our way–or at least, one would think. Consider light; or really, the behavior of photons, as physicists would explain it. While we can explain many things about light, certain aspects of its behavior elude explanation: how the waveform rays refract through cosmic atmospheres, or how shadows form inside illuminated mirrored spheres. The point is that light is a miraculous and mysterious force of nature–something hard to explain and even harder to tame–unless you happen to be Michigan’s latest contribution to metalcore, Lightworkers. Doing their bold and poetic name justice, Lightworkers balance dark, devastating aggression with brilliant, illuminating ethereality to create a dynamic style of metallic hardcore that is at certain times groovy and aggressive, while at others light and melodic, making their debut EP, Personas, a release that is capable of either residing in the darkest shadows of the listener’s mind, or lighting up their brain with the force of fifteen Suns.
Personas’ instrumentation is brilliant light and gloomy shadow—a dialectic mix of enormous, catchy melodies and muddy, murderous breakdown-driven aggression. Every member of Lightworkers is a veritable master at their craft, weaving in and out of lighthearted harmonies and sinister, shadowy heaviness like a spectre. Take, for example, the punchy, prominent foundation paved by percussionist Justin Neuner. Neuner’s drumming is a frantic and fervent blend of punk-influenced speed and metallic, groove-friendly bounce. From the first hammering hits on the album’s opener, “Dirty Bros.,” Neuner nails the listener with precise, punchy fills and intricate patterns build upon devastating double-kick drum prowess and perfectly tuned-and-mixed toms that sound like battleship cannons. What’s more is that, even with great depth and resonance, Neuner’s drumming is still quick, jabbing at the listener like Mohammed Ali; working excellently with Erik Steele’s shreddy riffs and Drew Guay’s grimy bass to create a holy Trinity of terrifyingly catchy and diverse metalcore instrumentation. Take, for example, Personas’ lead single, “The Fool.” “The Fool” sees Guay crafting a strong scaffold atop Neuner’s immovable foundation of frenzied, crushing percussion. From Guay’s writing grooves blossoms Steele’s furiously-fretted riffs that wind from metallic, trashy leads to ambient, swooning melodies that get caught in the listener’s head like a fishhook. “The Fool” is archetypical of the entirety of Lightworkers’ EP—a smooth instrumental canvas that easily flows from riff-driven energy to catchy choruses and crushing breakdowns that is as diverse as the Midwestern scenery from which the band have emerged from.
Lightworkers’ instrumental diversity and dialectic songwriting is only the beginning of the band’s light/dark dynamic. Where Steele and Neuner set the mood with abrasive riffing or smooth, serene fretwork laid overtop of pummeling percussion or placid, jazz-influenced ambience, it is up to vocalists Maxx Archer and Drew Guay to complete the “scene.” Archer is the voice of Lightworkers’ furious, infernal aggression–setting tracks like “The Fool” ablaze with his harsh, intimidating roar. However, as Archer’s aural onslaught grows fiercer and fiercer, it becomes balanced by Guay’s crooned, catchy singing. “Dirty Bro’s.,” as well as “Stargazer” serve as brilliant example of this–as Archer leads the way with a steamrolling, hearty mid-range roar, Guay follows on his coat tails, there to alleviate the scorching burns the listener suffered at Archer’s hands with smooth, ear-melting cleans.
What makes Lightworkers special isn’t the dynamic they employ–after all, Personas is a textbook example of the infamous metalcore heavy-soft dynamic that has been done to death, revived, and done to death again. What makes Personas a stand-out effort is the amount of tangible energy and passion this Michiganian metalcore quartet put into their music. “Dirty Bros.” Is a riveting, raunchy kick-start to the release which is crafted to get the good times rollin’ and keep them that way. However, both “Stargazer” and “The Fool” are energetic and diverse displays of prodigal talent from a young and fresh band–something youthful enough to bring out the inner high-schooler in even the most jaded hearts the heavy music scene has to offer. What Lightworkers do on Personas is done often, but never quite as energetically and engaging as these lads seem to do it.
Maybe Lightworkers aren’t capable of illuminating all of the mysteries light keeps hidden in shadow–but it does illuminate the listener’s head and heart alike. Personas is an intelligent and immense offering by a band braving metalcore and its stagnancy to bring the listener something new and engaging
For Fans Of: Northlane, Like Moths to Flames, The Bunny The Bear, Sirena
By: Connor Welsh