I’m a sucker for post-hardcore. I’ll say that now and get it out of the way. It’s one of the first genres I had gotten into, with the likes of Underoath, Funeral for a Friend, From Autumn to Ashes and Thursday coming to mind. That being said, there’s been a remarkable lack of it as of late, with very few new bands attempting to take on the genre, either twisting it more-so to make it metalcore or just mixing pop punk into it to a point that it's really ignoring its roots. Now, as we continue to round the last turn of the 2013 music year, Missouri’s Treebeard has released Stars Over Somber Skies via We Are Triumphant, hoping to break the mold on today’s music scene by going back to what post-hardcore used to be.
After an instrumental intro track, “Vanitas” and “Alone Song” kick off the album; within these first three tracks, I’ve noticed something that has already made me very happy. Not a single breakdown was used or even hinted at throughout and the guitar has a much less distorted, more ambient tone to it – which complements the vocal work almost perfectly. The best way I could describe the sound would be a mix of Thursday’s Waiting and Follow the White Rabbit’s Endorphinia, combining ambience and a dreamier atmosphere with vocal work that’s more reminiscent of early Alesana or A Skylit Drive. The clean vocal work of both singers is something to be greatly admired, sharing great skill in range and control. Though the screams can be monotonous at times, the songwriting is great with making the screams still feel welcome every time they are introduced.
Two major tracks to note are “Skyward” and “On Distant Shores,” both showing off the great harmonic vocal ability both singers are capable of, along with instrumental work that, though not showing much technicality, is very catchy and – something I’m glad to say for this genre – appropriate to the song’s direction. “Skyward” shows off the band’s more ambient side, whereas “On Distant Shores” is closer to the post-hardcore, aggressive direction you’d expect from Thrice or Dead Poetic. I’d consider the two tracks to be the most appropriate of what this band brings to the table, musically.
The album does contain three interludes of sorts, along with several soft, ambient pieces which show off great singing ability and harmonies throughout, but it all continues to feel rather safe from an instrumental standpoint – which I suppose is the only real issue I have with the album. The two vocalists show great ability and are willing to break molds to create a new and catchy sound, yet the instruments just can’t keep up it seems. Two great examples of this are the songs “Constance” and “XIV.” If there was just a bit more from the guitar and bass, maybe even add another guitarist or a keys player, it might not feel as instrumentally empty as it does through to completion.
Stars Over Somber Skies is a gem for 2013, don’t let the last paragraph fool you. Treebeard is a breath of fresh air to the post-hardcore genre because the band is willing to look back at the genre and use an older approach. The album doesn’t hold a single breakdown, the guitar and bass tones aren’t distorted nearly as much as one would expect and the songwriting, though simple, has great emotion and catchiness in several instances. The vocal work is astounding and should be used as an example for singers in the future who wish to properly use harmonies and higher pitched vocals.