Album: Vulnerable – EP
Animals are most dangerous when their weaknesses are exposed. Even docile creatures will fight with unlimited energy and relentless ferocity when their lives are on the line, or their offspring are endangered. Mother bears take on fights they’d never normally engage in when they sense their cubs are in peril–nature has programmed us to hide and defend our vulnerabilities, to lash out when we are most at risk. Because of this–this newfound courage and cutthroat attitude–Vulnerable is the perfect name for the debut EP from Virginia’s latest metalcore sensation, RVNT. RVNT claw and gnash at the listener’s ears with tooth and claw, brutalizing them with filth-laden grooves and bone-snapping breakdowns: all in an attempt to obscure the soft and soothing post-hardcore tendencies the band hold closely to their chest. However, even at their most tranquil, don’t let your guard down–as RVNT’s Vulnerable is an animal that never misses an opportunity to sucker punch the listener and fight with the aggression of ten alligators with their tails cut off.
A great portion of the RVNT that the listener experiences is that of their tough, thick outer coat. Most of Vulnerable is a variety of riff-driven metalcore and harsh, heavy hitting hardcore. This decisive dichotomy is determined largely by RVNT’s instrumentation–as percussionist Jose Rodriguez-Quiles spends most of his time oscillating between quick, catchy kick drum patterns and build-up-to-breakdown resonating tom fills. As Rodriguez-Quiles crushes the listener with fast, see percussion, bassist Matt Madariaga never leaves his side, coating each punctual kick of the bass drum with a layer of lurid, low-down-and-dirty grime. This dynamic makes the heavy moments hit just that much harder–sending the breakdown in “Leech” from jabbing to jaw-dropping, and adding extra oomph to the onslaught found lurking within “Disconnected.” This dynamic is amplified by the diverse influences defining the fretwork of guitarists Cole Sweeney and Ryan Potter. Sweeney and Potter may be shredding away with harsh, skin-ripping riffs one second, only to turn a complete one-eighty and harmonize for a catchy, crystal-clear chorus the next. “Leech” exemplifies this better than any other, as the track begins with grotesque grooves but ends in an enormous, melodic chorus that will stay suck in the listener’s head for days. However, even at their softest, Sweeney and Potter are still entertaining and energetic–never failing to add extra ferocity to Vulnerable’s volatile nature with a chug or two here or there.
A majority of Vulnerable’s eviscerating nature, however, comes from the throat of vocalist Ricky Gillis. Gillis hits a remarkable range of vocal styles–from letlive.-esque screeches to harsh, horrendous screams and growls that sound like they could be on a Like Moths to Flames and Beacons collaboration. Gillis brings a whole new dimension of diversity to RVNT’s dynamic that keeps the listener’s ears glued to the speaker, craving whatever cunning one-liner (“Circles” is especially rife with them) Gillis has to let loose next. Where “Circles” and “Vain” see Gillis at his apex lyrically, his performance on “Buried Alive” and “Leech” are far and away the ones most exemplary of his awesome range. Tracks like “Leech” are home to performances that will no doubt launch Gillis into the halls of vocal greatness.
Gillis is the brain that controls the fierce, immense animal that is RVNT. Where Gillis shouts and screams, the band’s instrumentation becomes sharp and aggressive–or blunt and brutalizing. Rodriguez-Quiles’ percussion is pummeling and intense, as Madariaga’s bass takes on a murderously low tone and the Sweeney/Potter dynamic dives in for the kill, slamming at the listener like the Hulk on a bad day. However, when Gillis opts to sing, RVNT become as unpredictable as a wounded Pitbull. Wreaking havoc on the listener during the clean (but instrumentally frenzied) chorus of “Vain,” or begging for kindness and evoking pity during the closing seconds of “Leech,” the band make expert use of the time-tested heavy-soft dynamic. However, where many bands stutter and falter with their sound on their debut EP, RVNT let it ring with the expertise of a veteran to the heavy music scene, shocking the listener with prodigal talent.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming RVNT to be another one-legged mule attempting to run metalcore’s rat race. Vulnerable is an EP that laughs in the face of the unsuspecting listener, turning the tides on them and tearing out their heart–making them the victim rather than the prey.
For Fans Of: Like Moths to Flames, One Year Later, Beacons, letlive.