Album: This World, Not Dead, Merely Sleeping
There’s a fine line between being dead and being asleep—between a suspension of consciousness and a complete removal of it altogether—so when looking at melodic hardcore’s relative stagnation in 2015, one might be quick to dig a grave, pronounce it dead, and move on. However, a closer examination would reveal several bands toiling tirelessly, combining musical aggression and emotional lyricism in a manner that might invigorate a genre rapidly approaching a comatose state. Among the bands still working to keep the genre alive, few are as notable as Ohio’s Motives. Bursting onto the scene with their 2013 debut, The Champion Heart, the band have done nothing but built upon their firm foundation of heavy-handed hardcore and heart-rending emotional core, giving the listener This World, Not Dead, Merely Sleeping—an unbelievable testament to melodic hardcore that not just wakes the genre from its slumber, but infuses it with fresh vigor and vivacious energy the likes of which it hasn’t seen in years.
Even in spite of its “melodic” tag, This World, Not Dead, Merely Sleeping is a juggernaut that doesn’t slow down once it starts up. From the rip-roaring beginning to “Operator,” percussionist Peter Reilly sets the break-neck tone for the entire release, hammering away with punk-influenced patterns and pummeling kick drum segments that leave bruises all over the listener before the first track is even through. Mile-per-minute tracks like “Operator” and “Forest of Daggers” not only highlight Reilly’s speed, but the lumbering candor of bassist Dan Ackerman’s bouncy, bold grooves. Working hand-in-hand with Reilly’s thick kick drum and snappy snare, Ackerman’s meaty tone adds heft and weight to even the quickest passages of Motives’ full length album. Reilly and Ackerman go on a rampage throughout the release, only backing down during the mellow, catchy anthem “Wolf’s Den” to highlight variety from guitarists Kevin Burrows and Tony Reed. Burrows and Reed spend a majority of This World racing along with frantically strummed riffs and chords that balance delicately with climactic sequences of crushing, chugged-out heaviness. However, “Wolf’s Den” sees the duo stepping outside of their comfort zone and showing off with slow, deliberate riffs comprised of warm and clear tones as opposed to jarring dissonance. “Wolf’s Den” is a stark contrast to the furious “Forest of Daggers” or “Makeshift Homes”—tracks that display no matter how much Burrows and Reed might slow it down, they’re ever-capable of picking the pace right back up—sending the listener’s pulse soaring in the process.
Motives’ musicians do a wonderful job of creating a canvas that highlights wonderfully orchestrated—even if, at times, standard—hardcore infused with a vivid, warm hue. However, when it comes to This World, Not Dead, Merely Sleeping’s emotional outpouring, the listener need look no further than the frenzied work of frontman Ian Slagle. Slagle tears at the listener’s ear with the ravenous appetite of a starved bear, but the careful, constructed writing of a veteran poet. “Forest of Daggers” is metaphorically magnificent, while “Makeshift Homes” is brutish and straightforward. While these two tracks are Slagle at his most energetic and unrelenting, “Komorabi” sees his slipping into moments of harshly shouted spoken word verses, as “Timeless” is a blend of both styles, spiced up with a half-sung shout that sears its way into the cells of the listener’s brain. Slagle’s performance takes a solid instrumental backdrop and makes it extraordinary, filling This World with clever moments of interplay between scathingly dissonant chords and pummeling percussion to make a comprehensive experience out of the album’s components.
Music is one of—if not the—ultimate form of storytelling, and This World, Not Dead, Merely Sleeping supports that claim to a tee. Defined by expert interplay between vocals and instrumentation, incredible lyricism and heartfelt, ear-splitting vocals, Motives are a powerhouse of melodic hardcore on a mission to make even the most skeptical ears fall in love at first listen. Where certain parts of This World fall short (some of the lyrics in “On a Hilltop, Past a Valley” fall far short of the high standards set by the remainder of the release), and, on the whole it is ultimately lacking in length despite its lofty 10-track catalogue, a majority of Motives’ latest release are nothing short of excellent. Free of glaring flaws and filled with passion so pure it defies worth, This World, Not Dead, Merely Sleeping is something that needs to be played loud enough to wake the entire world from a state bereft of passion.
For Fans Of: Hundredth, Worthwhile, Defeater, Heart in Hand
By: Connor Welsh