REVIEW: Luca – Sink or Swim [EP/2019]

Artist: Luca

Album: Sink or Swim – EP


Since the dawning of mankind, mankind has had…problems. And with every problem, there is a choice—or rather, there are two outcomes. You can solve it, or you can fail to solve it. You can overcome what ever adversity sits, staring you down or you can become overcome by it. As the adage—and title of Luca’s 2019 EP—goes, you can sink or swim. Now, what this has to do with the content of this metalcore outfit’s impressive and graceful blending of genre’s is…well, not much, truth be told, but the same frantic energy—fight or flight, succeed or fail, make it or die trying—is abundant throughout Sink or Swim. A captivating collection of songs, Luca contrast spastic, strung-out energy with a penchant for brooding heaviness and moments of awe-inspiring atmosphere that make certain cuts feel like a hefty post-hardcore number and others feel like a ruthless metalcore track with a spring in its step. Luca are diverse if nothing else, and Sink or Swim is a mature and full-bodied testament to just that.

Sink or Swim blends elements of melodic hardcore, metalcore and post-hardcore into a riveting soundscape that hits hard but also transitions smoothly and fluidly from style to style. Built on a pavilion of Andy Bisceglie’s bold, powerful percussion, songs like “Growing Pains” and “Sinkhole” serve as two of the EP’s most ruthless cuts. “Growing Pains” especially hammers away with Bisceglie’s kick drum working in excellent tandem with bassist Andy Pfister to create some of the heaviest moments that Luca bring forth. This is in stark contrast to the balanced, melodic-yet-moody opening number, where Pfister works as an aid to guitarists Felipe Rodela and Nick Hopp. Rodela and Hopp use driving riffs intertwined with quick chugs and moments of ambience and atmosphere plentifully throughout Sink or Swim, but especially where “Overcast” and “The Spark At Dawn” are concerned—two of the Eps more diverse numbers—whereas the aforementioned barn-burner, “Growing Pains” is a grisly, go-for-the-throat cut that sees the duo cashing in on Bisceglie’s hectic drumming to crush the listener beneath dissonant, ferocious brutality. The group are diverse—this is plentifully clear—and serves to keep the listener interested throughout the EP, with the music always thoughtfully blending heaviness with passionate, pure energy. Sink or Swim is a smart listen, in that it is carefully composed, but not careful to a point of feeling cold or calculated; rather, it excellently retains its organic and emotional core—especially where vocals and lyrics are concerned.

Vocally, Luca maintain their fine balance between an energetic, brazen side and a more sullen, introspective element. Frontman Adrian Dabu is as dynamic as he is lyrically masterful, weaving tales of loss in between inspiring wellsprings of hope and endurance. Dabu’s voice, while not inherently unique is still a stellar complement to Luca’s overall sound, with harsh bellows on the heavier tracks—“Growing Pains” and others—that contrast the more delicate moments found at either extreme of the EP. Other portions of Sink or Swim are catchier—this is very true of the dynamic track “Sinkhole”—where Dabu’s voice ranges from blistering, harsh low registers to a raw, gritty mid-range yell. The whole while, his lyrics remain intelligible (and intelligent), detailing personal tales of adversity, with many of the tracks including a smattering of home and determination—a sense of uplifting that serves as a testament to the band’s melodic hardcore foundation. Where Dabu may not be the next household name within the relatively specific scene Luca have placed themselves in, there is no denying that his talents and diversity help provide Luca with broad appeal, allowing Sink or Swim to resonate with fans of just about spec on the continuum of contemporary heavy music.

If Sink or Swim was to have a fault, it would be the relatively short-lived nature of its replay value. Good for several quick listens, Luca’s 2019 EP quickly loses its initial impact—which isn’t to say it’s bad, or not worth listening to at all, mind you. Sink or Swim is wonderfully diverse, but between its somewhat brief run-time and the easily learned twists and turns its course takes, Sink or Swim doesn’t lend itself particularly well to being binged heavily or repeatedly. This holds true for, honestly, 90% of the releases that get put out at all, however, and truly shouldn’t be held against the band in any great way. Ultimately, Luca’s latest effort is strong, catchy, heavy and fun, all while keeping a very carefully-created approach to crafting dynamic and immersive heavy music—so upon pressing play to Sink or Swim, remember that it might be somewhat easy to find yourself pulled into the group’s expedient undercurrent.

Connor Welsh


For Fans Of: Like Moths to Flames, Counterparts, Kaonashi, early Hundredth