Album: Life Ain’t a Walk in the Park – EP
Everyone’s heard the age-old adage “change is the only constant.” This couldn’t apply more to music than it can today—with bands across the globe adding bizarre and farfetched twists and turns to their sound in the effort to push the envelope and redefine “progressive” or “technical” beyond the point of recognition. In many ways, the world of heavy music has turned into an overblown pissing contest. There is, however, another adage that serves contrary to the first: “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” This is where Newcastle hardcore quartet Preserver come into play. Staying true to their name, Preserver do just that—preserve the roots of heavy, hard-hitting hardcore on their short-but-sweet EP, Life Ain’t a Walk in the Park. Blending quick, energetic hardcore and punk with bitter, brutal beatdown elements, Life Ain’t a Walk in the Park is a stunning example of a group that refuses to sacrifice their deadly DIY attitude in a scene which insists on progression.
Instrumentally, Preserver paint a comprehensive display of hardcore of all shapes and sizes from a palette of masterfully straightforward musicianship. Sol Daley beats and pounds away with a cavalcade of crushing, punchy percussion that ticks away like the Energizer bunny—always going, cranking away and crafting a flat baseline from which the strings can flourish. Mackenzie Ord chugs and riffs away, crafting a gritty, dissonant series of soulful, yet sinister anthems that hit the listener like a sock filled with locks. The fretwork throughout Life Ain’t a Walk in the Park borders on monotonous, but that isn’t to say it isn’t marvelously effective. “Weak Minds” ranges from a catchy, driving riff to a disastrous, brooding low end—a low end that is filled out and made beefier by the bass work of Timothy Barnes. Together, Barnes and Ord create a mildly varied but still monstrous display of downtuned, beatdown aggression—one that can be forceful and speedy, as seen throughout “Check Yourself” or deep, rough and heavy, as best displayed in the EP’s title track. This gritty instrumentation is where Preserver gather a majority of their down-to-earth, DIY feel; a feel that brings heavy, gut-wrenching, fist-pumping hardcore right back to it’s roots.
As Daley slaves away behind the skins and Barnes and Ord unleash a dynamic duo-styled display of fretted fury, Connor McGuigan is left to provide Preserver’s lustrous polish. With vocals that tend towards a Desolated-esque shout, McGuigan spits acidic, burning bitterness and shrill, hardcore honesty throughout the EP’s four tracks. “Check Yourself” has a lyrical flow with an almost hip-hop influenced vibe (and lyrical content to match), while “Life Ain’t a Walk in the Park” remains the most varied and visceral of McGuigan’s vocals; gritty growls and harsh yells shred and tear away at the listener, meshing beautifully with the brutalizing, basic instrumentation. The caveat to Life Ain’t a Walk in the Park lies, partially within the vocals—if the listener isn’t a fan of acts like Desolated, Suburban Scum or Hardships, then chances are, they won’t get down to Preserver either: such is the nature of McGuigan’s love-it-or-hate-it vocal style. However, whether it turns out to be a plus or a minus for the listener, there is simply no denying that there could be no better fit for the ferocious music that serves as its canvas.
With tough, in-your-face vocals and gritty, terrestrial musicianship to match, Preserver practically wear their DIY sound like a badge of honor—and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, the raw, skin-shredding sound of Life Ain’t a Walk in the Park serves as one of it’s greatest strengths and its most noteworthy flaw. Much like McGuigan’s vocals (which I find masterful, yet others may find over-the-top), the sucker-punch to the face feel of Preserver’s sound is a love-it-or-leave-it sound. The simplest way to say it is that Preserver produced the album in a manner which matches the attitude with which they wrote it: simple, but effective. There isn’t much mastering glitz and glamour to be had on Life Ain’t a Walk in the Park, but what it lacks in polish and prettiness, it makes up for in simple honesty. After all, isn’t the most effective way to the listener’s head by punching a hole straight through their eardrums? And that’s exactly what Preserver do, with an EP that rips the listener’s ears wide open like a perfectly-placed swing from an ice pick.
Preserver are the roots of hardcore embodied, with all the turbulence and turmoil that embodies. Energetic percussion drives mammoth-like riffs and chugs into the listener’s ears, while the vocals sock the listener straight in the nose. This UK-based act slice, pound, punch and kick the listener into submission the old fashioned way, proving that Life, after all, Ain’t a Walk in the Park.
For Fans Of: Desolated, Suburban Scum, Xibalba, Benchpress, Expire
By: Connor Welsh