It seems hardcore in the more traditional sense is finally making a bit of a comeback in the scene these days, as bands like The Ghost Inside, Terror, Hundredth and now Seattle’s own To the Wind are making some waves. I’m not personally sure how necessary it was, since it had been less than ten years since the genre had been trumped by post-hardcore, metalcore and the like. With 2014, To the Wind has come back with its sophomore release, Block Out the Sun & Sleep, an effort promising to make you happy that the genre is on the rise again.
The first two tracks on the album, “Vacant Home” and “Trapped,” do an excellent job to show off the instrumental prowess this band possesses. Creative and catchy guitar riffs and solid drumming – and consistently powerful screaming from vocalist Tanner Murphy – all really bring these songs home as hits. It’s when the third track, “Hands of the Clock,” hit that I really became intrigued because Murphy’s vocals make a very pleasant transition to the slower verses used, and the gang vocals in the background turn this pace-changer into a game-changing anthem for the band.
Once “21” starts, we’re back to that faster pace introduced in the first two tracks, and I started to notice the first chugging breakdown on the record. It really pleased me to hear such a popular songwriting escape used so sparingly, and the rest of the record wouldn't disappoint in that regard, with such breakdown usage kept to pleasant single digits. To the Wind has done a fantastic job pairing the heavy and jarring with more emotional, heartfelt anthems on this record – which makes the record as a whole more listenable, instead of the usual 11 tracks of one style with one interlude thrown in. That being said, after “Alone in Life”, which gives a very Hundredth-ish feel, the title track is a soft-clean interlude, providing that moment to breathe and relax whilst crooning guitars please the eardrums, preparing you for the incoming second half of the record.
The next track is “Skin Deep,” which is a fast-paced circle pit song with soaring lead guitar and a very catchy chorus. Murphy, too, does an excellent job of staying tasteful with his screaming, not overly drowning out the instruments, but complementing them. With “Through My Eyes,” the band created a track most modern hardcore kids will love; though a shorter track overall, it’s a heavy burst of gritty chugging and lyrical angst right in your face. “Iron Rain” really didn’t change up from that same heavy formula except for a few faster melodic parts, though that little change still keeps you interested.
The second last track, “One and the Same,” proves to be a callback to the beginning of the record, cutting the heavy for all more melodic and speed, though also displaying some cleaner vocals that sound excellent during the chorus. If there was one complaint throughout the record it points out, though, it’d be that the song length on most of the record is too short to really drive home each song’s meaning; most of the tracks clock in at three minutes or less and end much sooner than feels necessary.
With a heavy end to the record in “Growing Numb,” I’m more than pleasantly surprised with what To the Wind has brought to the table with Block Out the Sun & Sleep. It’s jam-packed with variety, and each member of the band provides an honest effort into creating an authentic hardcore piece, though short as it is. In a way, that could be a good thing because it left me starting the album all over again, eager to hear more; in that case, I’d consider it a huge success.