REVIEW: Artisan – Prelude (EP/2013)


Artist: Artisan

Album: Prelude (EP)


Honesty is the best policy. You’ve probably heard that before—because, nine times out of ten, it’s true. While there are times where, obviously, it might be more convenient to lie, or it might make the immediate future easier, pushing forward with bold-faced honesty tends to be the more honorable—and, in the long term, wise—thing to do. For those moments where the pressure of your surroundings seems to weighing you down, bending your back and begging you to give in, there is Artisan, and their debut EP Prelude. With a sturdy spine of pounding, driving instrumentation that house the emotion-wrought lyrical nerves and blood vessels of the album, Prelude is the sound of honesty, plain and simple—whether it’s honest, heartfelt tenderness or brute, bold aggression.

Prelude, despite the seemingly innocuous name, is anything but just a preface to something. Artisan have carefully crafted (doing their name proud) an immersive, full-bodied release which, while brief, snares the listener with catchiness and heaviness, refusing to let them go. “Casted Stones” gives the listener breathing room—with emotive, expressive lyrics and subtle, fitting background instrumentation which throbs and pounds, morphing into a full-blown attack on the listener’s senses. The guitar refuses to let up as the song flows into the next track, “Tilting the Hourglass,” which opens with a catchy, pervasive riff markedly different from the driving, ringing chords which reigned as king in “Casted Stones.” Throughout Prelude, the guitars oscillate and flow brilliantly through a variety of mediums—there are the uplifting chords and harmonies found strung together throughout “Tilting the Hourglass” and “Reflect” which transgress into catchy, racing riffs, exemplified in “Reflect” and “Outrun the Storm.” Finally, there are the immense, tidal chugs which seem to spring up like geysers from the threnody of harmony which Artisan have made—these moments, like the ones in the climax of “Reflect” (the album’s most diverse track, instrumentally) and the kick-start to “Monologue” serve to sock the listener square in the jaw, leaving them bruised and maybe a little bloodied. These immense guitar patterns paint their way across the canvas of constantly driving percussion which throbs and pulses like a living heart—always keeping the album moving and plodding along.

Where Artisan move beyond the realm of a standard emotional hardcore band and into the realm of excellence is in the vocals, and the dynamic they impart. Vocally, what Prelude lacks in variation, it makes up for in power. “Tilting the Hourglass” is home to a pervasive, stunning vocal effort which leaves almost no corner of the track untouched. The vocals are constantly grating at the listener, enforcing their message of standing tall and staying true. In a way, that message rings true to Prelude’s vocal element as a whole—the vocals stand as fathomlessly high towers, looming over the busy sea of awe-inspiring instrumentation. Whether it’s the sheer beauty of the “blegh” in “Monologue” or the way they give the guitar room to shine in “Reflect,” Artisan’s vocal work redefines the standard for the genre. Just intelligible enough to make sure every word is clear, but screamed enough to avoid a boring, annoying shout, the vocals and lyrics used throughout Prelude should become a standard for Artisan’s peers.

Yes, the vocals on their own are incredible—true enough. However, it is the way the vocals mesh with the driving, inspiring instrumentation which makes Prelude such an honest and forthcoming release. Artisan know just when to hold ‘em and just when to fold ‘em. When the guitar is intricate and looping, the vocals employ a more diverse and sporadic atmosphere—like that seen in “Outrun the Storm”’s conclusion. Furthermore, when all the cards are on the table and Artisan need to voice exactly what is on their mind, they play a strong, meaty series of chugs and open, ringing chords to provide structure and support to their message—like “Reflect” or “Monologue” and the beauteous breakdowns within them. This dynamic is unlike any other act which comes to the listener’s mind when enjoying Prelude. Artisan willingly admit there is a time and a place for flowery, verbose instrumentation—however, those times are not the same times when the lyrics need to speak for themselves and impart their own message. In this manner, Prelude flows back and forth between bold-faced truth and the dance which leads up to it—the storm and the misleading calm before.

Artisan do their name every ounce of pride it deserves. Prelude is a wonderfully crafted EP which is intricate and emotional; heartfelt and heavy.  When it races, it blurs at the lines between emotional and energetic, and when it plods, it truly thuds and throbs in time with the listener’s heart. All the while, it also controls the listener’s head—with lyrics, guitar lines and percussion which takes over the listener’s mind and will absolutely refuse to leave.



For Fans Of: Counterparts, Motives, Hundredth, Gideon

By: Connor Welsh