Album: Elder – EP
So often, bands make promises of genre-defying “breakthroughs”, or new “bigger, badder, more brutalizing” elements to their sound, which, frankly, never seem to follow through. Sure, these upgrades bring some change to the table, but, if we’re being honest, always leave the listener lacking in terms of the artist’s previously promised progression. This is where Cincinatti’s Mailman change things up, and, sticking true to their name, deliver. Elder is an EP that provides a unique and emotional combination of groovy, intense technicality and passionate, heart-felt atmosphere in a lightning-fast torpedo ignited by conviction and driven by faith. In short, Elder takes the sound and fury of a young, intense and talented band and clashes it calamitously with the experience and venerability of a well-seasoned act to provide the listener with an immersive, engaging and awe-inspiring metalcore experience.
From the very first crack of the snare—the very first syllable screamed on Elder, the listener knows that Mailman are a passionate and intense group of musicians. More than that, they are able to display it with an entire array of intense, heavy instrumentation. Pummeling, jarring percussion paves a path through the thicket and wilderness of the listener’s head, opening up the sky for the guitars and bass to soar as freely as they wish—no track exemplifies this quite so well as “Marathon,” the EP’s first single. The guitars groove and gyrate in a low, beefy tone that perfectly compliments the husky punch-and-roll of the bass while adding depth and tone to the already booming bass drum—until the chorus kicks in. Once the grating, harsh and heart-rending screams give way to clean, crooned singing, the guitars take flight, incorporating subtle amounts of shred and serenity—in equal parts—to wind into the listener’s mind. “Dichotomy” follows a similar plan of attack—beginning with a breakdown so crunchy it feels as if the listener is chewing on broken glass. Just as it seems that the song is getting too heavy and lop-sided to carry on, the pressure breaks and the listener is lifted with all-encompassing emotion.
To a degree, each song on Elder incorporates a soothing and cleanly-sung element into its structure to alleviate the deep, visceral and heavy elements Mailman clearly excel at. However, it isn’t all done in a copy-and-paste cleanly sung chorus manner. “Dichotomy” builds up to it and uses it sparingly, just as the listener feels as if they’re going to cave from the weight of the song, whereas “Marathon” seems to plan for it—to incorporate it into its structure from the get-go. “Privation” follows a similar strategy, leaving plenty of room for the tracks ambient nature and ethereal use of electronic elements and symphonic touches alike. Even as each song makes a prominent use of clean singing, make no mistake that the instruments always follow suit and lose their razor-sharp edge. “Sore Thumb,” for example, is far from this—even as the clean singing takes the lead over the grating and diverse range of harsh vocals, the drums continue to blister and batter at the listener, while the guitars split down the middle: one takes the low road and splits the listener’s kneecaps wide open, while the other soars high above the chaos happening below.
By now you might be thinking, “okay, Connor. You promised progression and ingenuity. Where is it?” True—on their own, Mailman’s penchant for the heavy or ability to sing wonderfully is nothing ground-breaking. Together, however, Mailman’s respective talents fuse to make Elder a completely captivating experience that is equal parts crushing and compassionate. “Marathon,” for example, begins in a thrashy, all-or-nothing metallic shred-session which, by the time the track has run its course, leads the listener through furiously-fretted riffs, pummeling, gut-busting breakdowns and uplifting, soul-mending moments of atmosphere—none of which seem forced or contrived in the slightest. The band’s ability to flow smoothly from faith-filled fervor the likes of which would make For Today look like pagans to jaw-cracking heaviness that makes Impending Doom like infants in a sandbox is nothing short of remarkable. On top of it all, Mailman include programmed sections of symphony and subtle electronic elements to provide ever more depth to their rapidly expanding sound—making it a watering hole big enough for fans of all types of genres to fill their cup from.
As a Michigander, I should have all the bias I need to dislike Ohio-based metalcore act Mailman. However, there is simply nothing to dislike. Melodic, emotive atmosphere meets spine-shattering shred and blistering brutality to create an immersive, faith-fueled experience that can be appreciated and loved by fans of heavy music from any (and every) walk of life.
For Fans Of: For Today, For the Fallen Dreams, Sirena, Like Moths to Flames, AGraceful
By: Connor Welsh