Album: Thresholds – EP
Some bands use bizarre—bordering on comical—names in an effort to throw the listener off, and give them a reason to check the band out. I remember the earliest days of my forays into heavy music—bands like Duck Duck Goose and Dance Gavin Dance caught my eye before they ever had a chance to catch my ears. However, other bands rely on simplicity to speak the volumes that their names omit: Midwayer being a brilliant case in point. Midwayer find themselves midway between murky, heavy metalcore and catchy, progressive post-hardcore—with their debut EP Thresholds working as a driving, dissonant testament to their unique amalgam of genres. Even in spite of being held back with half-hearted and lackluster production, this Georgian quintet find themselves on the Threshold of greatness, with a heartfelt and hectic display of punishing passion that will appeal to fans of heaviness and harmony alike.
Midwayer’s instrumental proclivities are a whimsical mashup of muddy, crunchy breakdowns and uplifting, melodic moments of ethereal atmosphere. Thresholds feels like a complete ecosystem: a detailed, dynamic rainforest that is prone to moments of punishing, devastating wrath and peaceful, calming serenity. If one is to liken Thresholds to a forest, then the efforts of percussionist Patrick Taylor and bassist Robbie McCall would almost certainly be the earth, trees and leaves that make up a majority of the EP’s content. Taylor’s drumming is dynamic, ranging from an energizing, speedy drive during “The Golden Flower” and “Thresholds,” to a splashier and more atmospheric mood during the album’s more epic ventures, “Gaia” and “Before the Flood.” Taylor’s bouncy, bold styling a during the more frenzied tracks keep Midwayer moving along, pumping fresh, furious blood into the band’s sound. Here—and especially on “The Golden Flower,” Taylor works side-by-side with McCall to produce a groovy, thick firmament for Thresholds, with quick, fluid grooves that flow easily and smoothly overtop of Taylor’s hurried drumming. If Taylor and McCall are the wildlife—the trees and leaves that establish Midwayer’s dense forest of sound—then guitarists Miles Atansu-Teeters and Gary Pounds serve as the environment in which Midwayer blossoms—the weather that brings warm baths of sunlight or torrential downpours of acidic rain. Again, the listener’s ear is drawn to “Thresholds.” Here, Atansu-Teeters and Pounds range from low, meaty chugs and crushing breakdowns to high-fretted, frantically-strummed riffs that soar sky high, providing a drifting sense of ethereality. Tracks like the bombastic “The Golden Flower” and “Babel” seem to favor the former, where “Gaia” is much more varied, pulling from punk, melodic hardcore and metalcore alike to take the listener on an immense journey through Midwayer’s many influences.
With a busy and bold thicket of instrumentation, Midwayer’s vocal element has a lot to compete with. Furthermore, where the band’s post-hardcore tendencies might bring to mind a cliché combination of harsh screams and clean singing, frontman Brandon Priest defies stereotypes and expectations, cutting through the band’s instrumentation with a meaty, visceral growl. There is hardly a clean syllable in sight—with the spoken segments of “Shutters” being about as close as Priest gets to clean vocals—and instead, Priest dominates with a grisly shout that serves as an immense testament to his powerful and passionate lyrics. When Midwayer describe themselves as “consciousness-raising,” it is without a doubt due to Priest’s prominent vocals and pure, powerful lyrics. “Before the Flood” is an excellent example, as Priest takes what might have been a lengthy and repetitive track and keeps the listener engaged with powerful roars and the equally provoking words within them. Priest’s vocals are a strong component of Midwayer’s dynamic, and may have been a genre-defining example of the excellence—were it not for the band’s haphazard production.
It seems unfair for things like mixing and recording quality to hold a band back—especially in today’s world of readily-available technology. However, here we are—given an excellent example of how the right production can either make or break an album by a budding band. While the shoddy quality and mix on Thresholds certainly doesn’t break the album, so-to-speak, it definitely mars it from living up to its full potential. With cymbals and percussion that seems too loud and splashy, combined with a brilliant bass tone…that drowns out a majority of Atansu-Teeters and Pounds’ efforts, a majority of the band’s more mellow moments are ruined the being drowned out by an enormous kick drum and cymbals that sound like a box of broken glass being rolled down a hill. However, even with a questionable mix, much of Midwayer’s latest EP does shine through, managing to be moving and enjoyable even in spite of its faults. At the end of the day, the issue isn’t with any of the musicians, but rather the choices they made when mastering the release—giving them mountains of potential and promise to cash in upon with their next album.
Midway between murderous heaviness and powerful progression, and standing on the Threshold of greatness, Midwayer’s latest release is a more than ample reason to keep an eye on these growing Georgian giants—even if this EP might leave many audiophiles wanting.
For Fans Of: Gideon, My Ransomed Soul, Northlane, Volumes, Backtrack
By: Connor Welsh