Album: Still Alive
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Connor Welsh. In November of 2014, after a lengthy series of events involving my personal relationships, education and career led me to make the first attempt of two on my own life. I tried again just under a year later, after things—instead of improving—worsened, and my outlook on life became grim. I was emotionally abused, lied to, cheated on and felt left behind by just about everyone I had held close to me. In the time that followed, I started a band, was admitted to medical school and am now in the process of applying and interviewing for residency programs in neurology and neurosurgery around the country. Things turned around—and they turned around in terrific form—and in no small amount due to the confidence, purpose and energy I found through listening to, creating and writing music. This isn’t meant to be a corny manifesto about the powers of music or how some band saved my life, but rather a testament to be applied more broadly; to myself, to my friends, family, the ones who left, the ones who stayed, everyone.
I am Connor Welsh, and I am Still Alive.
The debut full-length record by Floridian metalcore act Prison is a powerful record, to say the absolute least. Eight jarring, furious tracks of raw, savage, nu-metal infused metalcore, Still Alive touches on topics ranging from sociopolitical strife to mental illness—a speaking point which is no stranger to Prison. It isn’t as much what Prison approaches with Still Alive that makes it a special record—it’s how they approach it—with a no-strings-attached, bold, brazen, unapologetic and heavy as all Hell that makes Still Alive a very special record from a very special band.
As it stands, Prison aren’t going to pull in critical accolade for technicality on Still Alive. Those who demand a blitz of mach-speed blast-beats and intricate, noodly, sounds-like-a-video-game riff-work are going to have to get their fix elsewhere. What Prison boast is something different, but equally as appealing, and not without it’s own very valid musical merit. Still Alive is a very raw, straight-forward approach to metalcore. With bouncy, energetic percussion serving as a backbone for low, rumbling bass and oppressive fretwork, Prison create a crushing approach to metalcore that draws heavily from nu-metal without sounding regurgitated or over-done. Songs like “Still Alive” and “Obituary’s Son” capture this best, with sections sounding eerily similar to a more primal take on King 810’s recent catalogue, or perhaps a version of KoRn more emotionally labile and violent. “Still Alive” and “You & Me & The Devil” capture the latter exceptionally, blurring the lines between metalcore and nu-metal with blatant disregard, all while maintaining a steady slew of aggression. Meanwhile, the percussive and bombastic side of Prison takes a break during the closing track, “Obituary’s Son,” which sees a more pronounced use of atmosphere and the crafting of an airy, ethereal chorus that sharply contrasts the riff-heavy verses. There are, however, moments where Prison cut the shit and go directly for the throat. “Hell on Earth” and “Pray For Me” are excellent examples of those—songs that are almost incessantly heavy and don’t let up even to give the listener a single breath of rest; explosive drumming and crushing, ten-ton guitar tones wage war for the listener’s eardrum, leaving them bewildered by the boundless brutality Prison sporadically deliver.
If Prison’s instrumental approach isn’t going to earn them accolades from the tech metal underground, their lyrical and vocal work are probably not going to earn then a spot on the American Billboard Top 40 Radio Hits either—but that’s okay, that isn’t the point of Still Alive. Instead, Prison’s Johnny Crowder serves as a ruthless, primal voice for mental health, lashing out at taboos left and right. In many moments, he is poetic—“Still Alive” and “You & Me & The Devil” serving as examples of his more ornate lyricism and ability to paint entire scenes with words and the emotion in his voice. At other times, “Mental Illness” or “Hell On Earth” for example, he is less floral and more furious, roaring away like a jet engine, with the vitriol of a possessed preacher—only with more meaningful and intimate content. Crowder’s work with Prison is immaculate as a lyricist and a frontman, and while it isn’t the place of a record review to comment on his live delivery of Prison’s music, it should be at least noted that seeing Prison live is enough to make a convert of just about skeptic of Prison’s message. Don’t let that dissuade you, however, as Crowder’s work on Still Alive is, on all fronts, his best yet. Vocal diversity meets powerful lyricism in a head-on collision throughout the entirety of the record, and while “You & Me & The Devil” is a personal favorite, there is truly very little to put one track above another.
Prison are emotional. Prison are aggressive. They’re moody, introspective, brutal, brutally honest—they’re a lot of things—but above all, they are uncompromising in their approach to touching on tough topics. While mental illness is the topic of discussion for many up-and-coming acts In the heavy music community (and rightfully so), few tackle it with the vigor and spirit that Prison do, and equally as few tackle it to the same stellar result. As someone who makes a pointed effort to distance themselves from most things nu metal, Still Alive is the prodigal child of KoRn’s best moments, King 810’s heaviest segments and the portions of the DSM-V that many people are squeamish to discuss out loud. Catchy, creative and crushingly heavy, Prison are—contrary to any doubt you may have had—very much Still Alive.
For Fans of: King 810, Weeping Wound, KoRn, Bodysnatcher