It’s a struggle to make music these days. It isn’t easy to make music that satisfies the needs and wants of your fans, while at the same time making music that satisfies you, the band–you know, a sound that adequately reflects who you are and delivers the kind of message you want to convey. Then, assuming you’ve done all that–will it sell? Will it satisfy the critics? Does it progress, or is it stagnant and dull? Fortunately for Arizonian post-hardcore greats Greeley Estates, stagnancy amongst the least of their worries; The Narrow Road is the first EP of a two-part release which shows the band not only finding their sound, but embracing it. By contrasting heavy breakdowns against riff driven melodies and overlaying them with intense, multifaceted vocals, Greeley Estates reinvent their dynamic and mold it into a vicious, chimeric juggernaut.
From the very beginning of “The Narrow Road,” the listener can pick up on something different about Greeley Estates. The short, quiet build up leads into a ferocious track which–once it reaches its terminal velocity–never slows down. Laced with a grimy, groove juxtaposed against a lacerating, fierce riff which, at the drop of a dime, dives into eviscerating breakdowns. The entire album follows a like-minded pattern: while one guitar roars away at a breakneck pace with a technically proficient riff or eerie chord progression, the other grooves along underneath it. The ending section of “Head Underwater” is archetypical of this–even after the climactic breakdown passes, one guitar continues grooving while the other is simply haunting. The added effect of atmospheric keys and grinding bass amplify this–both of these elements are added most tastefully in The Narrow Road’s lead single, “Lot Lizards,” where the chorus’ bass line and bass tone are so delightfully grimy that the listener can hardly get enough.
As the guitars, bass and drums rip along at a breakneck pace, the vocals are always right there alongside them. Greeley Estates are perhaps most well-known for their unique vocal styling which oscillates between guttural lows, a sing-song-esque mid-range scream and a piercing high which has the potential to shatter the listener’s ear drums. “Lot Lizards” and “Die” both show the vocals at their fullest, and most diverse ranges. While “Lot Lizards’” chorus features that almost-screamed almost-sang vocal style which is bookended by ravaging highs and defiling lows. “Doomsday” is another track where highs and lows are contrasted in a manner which allows each to shine in their own respective fashion; when one is no longer effective, the other takes over just in time. The only downside with this multifaceted vocal approach is that the half-screamed half-sung vocal style is often employed where it just doesn’t quite fit. “Head Underwater” is an example of this. While the lows and highs are used brilliantly to up-play the track’s heaviness, the sing-songy vocal style jumps into the limelight and, much like a square peg trying to fit itself into a round hole, just seems clumsy and forced.
Vocally, Greeley Estates kick it into high gear, and instrumentally, they’re at the top of their game. However, it’s how these two elements play off of each other which really makes The Narrow Road a worthwhile release. The vocals and instruments combine to create a dynamic dialectic which makes the heavy parts heavy and the ethereal, riff-driven segments almost ambient. “Lot Lizards’” closing breakdown is exemplary of this. While the guitar chugs, pinches and squeals on top of the rollicking, grimy bass, the vocals simply shine. Smoothly diving from screeching highs to half-spoken screams, the breakdown truly breaks the song down. Likewise, “Doomsday”’s introductory sequence leads with grinding blast beats which work perfectly alongside the visceral, go-for-the-throat vocal approach. Moments like these really are able to drive the listener through some of The Narrow Road’s flat spots, where the album isn’t bad, rather, it just seems a little tasteless in comparison to some of the more fruitful, full portions.
While Greeley Estates may have taken a while to get there, it seems that they have finally found a sound which fits them and which allows each element of the band to shine to it’s fullest potential. Albeit, it was a long, winding road, laden with the occasional dull release or years of radio silence, The Narrow Road is proof to Greeley fans–both old and new–that sometimes, the narrow road is the one best traveled.
For Fans Of: From First to Last, The Great American Beast, Love Begotten