Washington’s Solid State Records is well known for having an extensive catalog of not only influential but also truly original artists, including the likes of Underoath, Destroy the Runner, Norma Jean, Zao and more. As of June this year, Idaho’s The Ongoing Concept is now included in the label’s catalog, including the release of their debut full-length, Saloon. The band had some success with a previous music video for a Legend of Zelda-inspired song before their signing, so they have a decent amount of hype going for them with this release. The question is: will Saloon continue their rise in the scene?
The first thing that needs to be thrown out the window is the idea of this band making use of synthesizers like they had before being signed. Saloon has more inspiration from the likes of folk and bluegrass, which when combined with the Norma Jean Repeater-era metalcore sound, create quite a unique blend of sound. From their song “Cover Girl,” containing a crunchy breakdown accented by a banjo lead, to songs like “Failures and Fakes” and “You Are the One,” which make use of crowd chants and almost blues-y piano leads, I was actually very impressed by the level of originality being expressed by this quartet, yet doing a decent job to maintain their connection towards modern metalcore.
One major gripe I do have with this act of progression is that the transitions do tend to suffer. The best example I can offer would be from the first verse to the piano pre-chorus on the title track. It stems from a highly chaotic and violent feeling reminiscent of Arsonists Get All the Girls (not to mention vocalist Kyle Scholz’s style of screams is remarkably similar to that of AGATG’s singer, Remi).
The main selling point to The Ongoing Concept, and also what might turn you away the most, is guitarist/vocalist Dawson Scholz. His voice, though at times very intelligently used and maddeningly catchy, also throws off songs a bit. There’s a difference between types of vocals being unexpected and those being out of place, and in several cases – most notably “Like Autumn” and “Cover Girl” – he tries to put out a scream/sing combination to give his voice an edge to complement the sound, yet it cuts into the atmosphere and makes the heaviness seem, in a sense, faked. If he were to use less of his raspier vocals and stuck to his catchy and (at times) melodically technical cleans, the songs would benefit greatly.
Lyrically, Saloon doesn’t exactly suffer, yet it surely doesn’t make itself out as being the progression it wants to be. The album's first single, “Cover Girl,” speaks of originality in its own right, yet the band in general isn’t really doing much to break the mold – aside from the introduction of bluegrass, blues and folk. One might think that it would be enough to do such genre-blending, yet the songs don’t actually maintain that feel for very long. The songs “Little Situation” and “Class of Twenty-Ten” may seem like excellent blends of genres in the chorus and in some of the verses, but at the same time, they do little as far as flow goes, keeping the same metalcore song structure and overall guitar feel. The Ongoing Concept tried to do what Every Time I Die did with southern rock, only they weren't quite able to come up with more creative hooks.
Saloon is a fine attempt at pushing metalcore forward, yet some parts are rather inconsistent. The vocals are, oddly enough, a major pro and a major con. The best part of that statement is it gives them the chance to push forward and learn more about themselves and their sound. If they play their cards right, the sky’s the limit.