Album: In Retrospect – EP
The rose goggles—or glasses—of nostalgia are a very real thing. The memories of shows, albums, places and people from our past, especially the good times are often enhanced when we look back upon them. Often, men and women live in a subdued and hazy present—with abundant uncertainty and unhappiness at the prospect of a tomorrow that might actually be worse. So we take to photo albums and old TimeHop posts on our social media profiles; we drown ourselves in memories of when things were what we deem to be “better.”
Were they really? Maybe—maybe not. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has gone and watched a cartoon from my younger days in the mid-90s and actually been a little disappointed. But the point is that we live in yesterday to escape a dreary present, and that same mental and emotional conundrum is exactly what nu-metal infused metalcore act Vacant capture on their aptly named debut, In Retrospect. Far from devoid of content, Vacant might earn their name because of the hollow and bereft feeling they strike into the listener with their depressive and ultra-aggressive Breed of heaviness. Bouncy at points, yet relentless for its duration, In Retrospect is a raunchy and prodigally well-rounded effort from these young and talented Atlanta annihilators.
Vacant draw their gut-wrenching style of nu-metalcore from the same vein that artists like VCTMS tap for their bouncy and insanely catchy—yet depressive—groove. Percussionist David Adler-Diaz finds himself at the heart of In Retrospect, hammering away with dizzying patterns and a punchy, strong kit with a blatant disregard for the listener’s sanity. Songs like “Waiting” are as catchy as they are crushing, with Adler-Diaz’s drumming oscillating back and forth between the two. Meanwhile, Adler-Diaz works diligently with bassist Gage Tindol on “Fear Speak” to contrast the song’s high-fretted and eerie leads with a grisly, groovy low end. Tindol finds himself shadowing Adler-Diaz’s kick drum during much of In Retrospect, which is far from bad—as it adds even more thickness and attack to the bizarre candor of the patterns that define his breakdowns or to the driving and energetic two-steppy sections in songs like “Vile Ends.” All the while, guitarists Christian Nowatski and Daniel Norton riff, chug and groove their way through the entirety of In Retrospect without stopping to even check for the listener’s pulse. “Fear Speak” sees the duo using a variety of effect-laden and haunting leads over a foundation of furious aggression—while “In Retrospect” and “Vile Ends” both assert themselves as more straightforward examples of ruthless aggression. Nowatski and Norton add a moderate amount of variety to the tracks on In Retrospect—with the added extras in the title track and the eerie atmosphere of “Fear Speak” doing much to add to diversity—but still encounter the odd problem where many parts from several of the songs sound somewhat interchangeable. This is as true as the groovy breakdown-turned-bridge in the title track as it is of much of “Waiting,” causing Vacant to force the listener to zone out a little after repeated listens.
In Retrospect keeps the ball rolling musically—but they are also relentless from a vocal standpoint. Frontman Jaden Garrity is enormously talented and lyrically suave, performing syllabic acrobatics around the labyrinthine grooves carved by Nowatski and Norton with ease. “In Retrospect” is an excellent example—as Garrity easily keeps the listener enchanted by his words. Meanwhile, “Dissociate,” a track that would otherwise be fairly bland, is spiced up by Garrity’s great vocal presence, as well as an appearance by Yuth Forever’s Devin MacGillivray. Where Garrity’s patterning and cadence is excellent, his range follows—as he hammers the listener with low bellows and pitched high yells both, stopping off at a mid-range yell between the two, and even adding the odd cleanly sung segment. Where Vacant’s musicianship occasionally stumbles into a humdrum pitfall, Garrity’s vocals do no such thing.
Vacant are a band worth their collective weight in gold where potential is concerned—however, the somewhat limited scope of In Retrospect doesn’t see them fully cashing that check, so to speak. Where “Fear Speak,” “Vile Ends” and the titular track are incredible, the remaining two feel slightly lackluster. What’s more—the act feel as if, while they’re certainly pouring themselves into every note—what they’re doing isn’t entirely natural, nor wonderfully original. In 2017 it’s basically impossible to fault a band for not being 100% unique—and that isn’t my point—my point is more that In Retrospect has the bones of an EP that could blow away the underground heavy music community, but is little more than half finished. Where “Vile Ends” hooks the listener in and keeps them engaged for the entirety of the release, In Retrospect’s whole run-time doesn’t hold up well to repeated listens; only the aforementioned tracks truly do. However, for a young band reaching into the depths of a collectively dark and demented psyche, Vacant do quite well—more than well enough to inspire listeners to keep an eye on them in the months to come.
For Fans Of: Barrier, VCTMS, Yuth Forever, Sworn In, Introvert
By: Connor Welsh