Album: We All Die Alone – EP
Day-in, day-out, we condemn ourselves to the same routine. Unless you qualify as the lavish upper echelon of the “one percent,” or you live in immense disregard for society, this applies to you: you wake up, you work, you go home and you sleep away the time until your next shift. You’re a rat in a maze where the only reward is the fact that one day, you’ll die–it’ll be done, wrapped up, kaput. You and your routine are no more, leaving just another empty gap to be filled by a young whippersnapper hopeful to make a difference.
Sound bleak? It is—and it is the summation of the brooding and dismal attitude captured by Canadian relative newcomers, Underlier, and their crushing and long-awaited debut release, We All Die Alone. Rough around the edges and gritty for its duration, We All Die Alone combines heavy hardcore and beatdown elements with eerie nu-metal and metalcore to create a scathing and sincere display of emotionally laden heaviness that begs to be heard by sadboys and spinkickers alike.
Instrumentally, Underlier find themselves at the crossroads between a love of unapologetically heavy hardcore and self-deprecating metalcore and hip-hop influence. With a foundation formed by bouncy, beefy kick drums and a fierce low end, percussionist Mitch Thompson works with bassist Justin Kneel to create a fluid firmament that confidently strides the line between nearly-djenty metalcore and straightforward hardcore. The EP’s titular track, “WADA,” exemplifies this, starting with a groovy kick and snare pattern from Thompson that quickly drops into a catchy two-step that could induce footwork in a paraplegic. Meanwhile, Kneel’s bass adds punch and depth to the mix, giving guitarists Scott Benstead and Alex Messenger something to work with. Benstead and Messenger dominate with grungy, filthy grooves on “WADA” while leading the charge with crushing leads and sharper, more intense riffs on “Already Dead” and “Cloak and Dagger” both. The result is a readily varied instrumental experience wherein Benstead and Messenger aptly follow Thompson’s lead, whether it’s the eerie and beefy intro or the supremely catchy two-steppy groove within “Already Dead” that drops into a devilish breakdown. Underlier’s instrumentation is ruthless yet melancholy, giving hints of sullen and depressive atmosphere during the slower and more sinister portions without sacrificing punch, quickness and energy during others.
Underlier, vocally, are the odd and aggressive child of Yuth Forever and a chimeric blend of crushing, downtempo-influenced artists. With shrill, shrieked yells that define “WADA,” “Empty” and “Garrote,” yet bitter and burly growls that add heft to the abysmally heavy breakdowns throughout We All Die Alone, frontman Connor Scott is varied and talented. Scott’s energy is incredible during the dancy parts of “Empty” and “WADA,” while his grit and grisly self-loathing shine through during the closing parts of “Empty” and “Already Dead.” In short, Scott’s vocal effort is dynamic to a point where it can well play to the various styles within the EP, be it the more brazen and brash aspects of “Dead Eyes” or the eerie, haunting and hellishly heavy ending to “Already Dead.” Lyrically, this trend continues—drawing influence from introspective and emotional contemporaries like VCTMS or the aforementioned Yuth Forever, using Underlier’s bouncy, groovy but grisly musicianship as a vector through which he can express his own inner dread. While there are moments where it might seem a little cliché (“Garrote” is an example), much of the release is s genuine analysis of Scott’s own inner demons in a manner most apt to the band’s musical styles.
Where Underlier have a fantastic starting point and have accomplished something great with their debut release, the EP is not without its flaws—the greatest of which is found in the EP’s production. While parts of We All Die Alone are lovably gritty and actually aided by the sandpaper-esque roughness of the mix and master, others find themselves weakened by it. This is especially true throughout “Already Dead” and “Empty,” where the otherwise awesome over-the-top Start/End style bass drops are lost in a sea of fuzz that erodes the otherwise oppressive vibe of the song. However, the closing tracks—“Cloak and Dagger” especially—are made more innovative by the gritty finish on the groovy and grisly moments of aggression throughout the release. Ultimately it’s a forgivable fault but one that either takes several listens to get used to or will always end up being just a little bit annoying. Through it all, Underlier push conventional boundaries without being afraid of airing their own dirty emotional laundry, making We All Die Alone honest and heavy if nothing else.
For Fans Of: Yuth Forever, VCTMS, Depreciator, Barrier
By: Connor Welsh