Album: No Comfort
There are those of us that move through life at the pace we choose—the people who might not control everything that happens to them, but they seem to at least control the important stuff. You know, those people with a plan; the same plan that they had as an infant and will carry them through to the end of their days.
Then there’s…well, the rest of us.
Those who go where life takes us, most of the time not knowing where that is. The people who go with the flow just because they don’t really have a choice—the people that, try as they might, can find No Comfort. For those people, there is the debut album by Californian melodic hardcore band Castaway. No Comfort is a compilation of ballads that depict the gritty, undesirable aspect not of living, but surviving. With moments of instrumental chaos as churning and sporadic as the sea at storm, and bits of melancholy melody that bring a sort of distressed, forced calm, Castaway capture what it is to be emotionally volatile and directionless—ensuring their music will find residence in the ears and hearts of many.
Instrumentally, Castaway are a solid melodic hardcore band with slightly above-par songwriting to contrast the fact that their musicianship doesn’t bring much new to the table. Before you write them—or me—off, allow me to elaborate: no musician in Castaway is bad, nor are they necessarily bland or uninteresting. While No Comfort is an excellently written album, instrumentally, each musician stays well within their own comfort zone (whether that’s ironic or not is up for debate). Beginning with a atmospheric but emotionally distressing track, Castaway give No Comfort a figurative foreword—one that sees guitarists Jon Banks and Ben Klein muted until dramatic climax at the end, while percussionist Tony Stultz is practically absent altogether. However, once the touching “Sixteen” has concluded, Castaway kick things off on all cylinders with “Pressure,” where Stultz establishes an energetic candor that drives the band throughout the remainder of the album. “Pressure” sees Banks and Klein combining quick paced chords that jump into high-strung riffs and dive into pummeling breakdowns fluidly, all coasting atop bassist Trevor Johnson’s smooth, snappy grooves. “Long Lost” and the titular “No Comfort” showcase the dynamic between Castaway’s guitarists and Johnson’s bass brilliantly, where Johnson only steals the show when sharing the stage alongside Stultz’s looming toms and thick kick drum. No Comfort continues as such—a roller coaster of highs and lows that drag the listener through an emotional hell. Brilliantly composed so that no moment is truly predictable, but ever-so-slightly restrained by relatively humdrum musicianship, moments like the climax to “Headlong,” or the half-way mark of “Face to Face” serve as rare moments where Banks and Klein’s fretwork soars, combining creative writing and utter talent to take the listener completely by surprise.
Where Castaway’s instrumentation may not be much to write home about, the band’s vocal dynamic and incredible lyricism are a different story altogether. Frontman Nick Worthington—assisted by Banks and Johnson—may be one of the best lyricists melodic hardcore has seen in recent history. If the heart-rending “Sixteen” isn’t proof enough, perhaps the distraught, desperate shouts in “No Comfort” or the quiet conclusion to “Face to Face” might be enough to convince you. Whether it’s the chorus to “Pressure” (a rare but tasteful display of clean vocals) or the refrain at the end of “As I Am,” Worthington’s lyricism is a tremendous force that makes every harshly spat syllable resonate with the listener. Granted: the only vocal diversity on No Comfort is found when Banks or Johnson pipes in, but this doesn’t seem to hold Castaway back much—as it can be three or four back to back listens before the listener even notices that Worthington’s voice rarely strays from a bitter mid-range bark.
So Castaway’s musicianship on its own isn’t a showstopper–but when combined with Worthington’s lyrical prowess and the vocal contributions from Banks and Johnson, No Comfort quickly begins to gain favor with the listener, especially as it is merely the band’s debut. Castaway create bouncy, energetic soundscapes with moments of reprieve that are calm but not calming (the end of “Face to Face” or the entirety of “Sixteen” are strong examples). Castaway have creatively written an album with appeal for many heavy music enthusiasts—even those who typically stay away from the more melodic side of things. Whether it’s the crooning in “Pressure” that gets stuck in your head or the dancy, frenzied two-steps throughout “Stone” or “Long Lost,” there is sure to be something on No Comfort that the listener can find some solace in.
For Fans Of: Defeater, Vessels, Hundredth, In Archives
By: Connor Welsh