REVIEW: Greeley Estates – The Death Of Greeley Estates

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Artist: Greeley Estates
Album: The Death of Greeley Estates
Genre: Metalcore
Label: Tragic Hero Records

The line up changes that have afflicted Greeley Estates since their inception would give you whiplash. Happily however, it doesn’t seem to have adversely impacted upon their music, which remains as streamlined and inventive as ever. The Death of Greeley Estates (not to be confused with their 2005 DVD of the same name), is a sprawling and ambitious record that hits more highs than lows, despite being far too long and losing much of its impact halfway through.

While adopting a fundamentally heavier, metalcore-type sound, the band have interspersed the tracks with a keen symphonic background, creating depth and melody that brighten and enhance many of the songs. While these elements do ultimately become a little contrived and repetitious, their presence adds a gorgeous, almost otherworldly vibe to the tracks that makes for fascinating listening.

Opening track “Straightjacket” is intensive and rigorous with lots of rolling riffs and heavy drums. The contrasting vocals are well balanced and there are some nice high-pitched guitar harmonies to offset the screaming. It’s in its wake however, with “The Last Dance,” that the album begins to unfurl its delights proper. The build up to the chorus brings in cleaner vocals over a lovely, almost mystical layer of sound, creating a beautifully eerie atmosphere for the chorus itself. The contrast between these celestial-like choruses, later complemented with an emotive breakdown, and the fiery verses is striking, and the band combine everything with a concluding string sample to end the track on a bombastic note. “Friendly Neighbourhood Visit” takes this up another notch with an almost choral effect in the background, adding extra dimension and a lot more class than one might have anticipated. The sound in this track is more experimental, the rhythm and pacing shook up slightly to disturb the symmetry while allowing the ethereal to reappear with the chorus. The more thoughtful aspects of the record already impress, even this early on, as the band hint at a rare bravery and willingness to experiment that isn’t often seen in this genre.

“Bodies” is a particular standout, with an almost funereal sound. The clean vocals wail miserably over an organ, and the addition of choral and symphonic elements adds to the pervasive sense of despair. The drumming which appears a little later to spur things on a bit doesn’t always convince next to this initial darkness, and the song feels as though it might have been more effective if it was left to simmer hauntingly. Nonetheless, it makes a firm, ghostly point. “The Medic” injects these symphonic elements into the bridge, soaring quite ambitiously over the base scream and grunt combo. This makes for a massive, profuse, and very dramatic sound that’s finely interwoven with some excellent guitar work.

Yet, this is not to suggest the band don’t make plenty of room for more traditional metallics. “A Thousand Burning Forests” sticks to an escalating and piercing guitar solo to make its point, and “Leave the Light On” is almost belligerent with a hectic and sharper sound. The latter fades out on a gloriously playful note, a trend also evident in the curiously electro-like midsection of “The Reaction.” The latter is an unrelenting and overbearing experience, with energetic instrumentation and occasionally frenzied screaming. “Tonight” is dark and forceful, yet strangely accessible by comparison with many of the others. As the epic elements that endow many of the tracks begin to lose their lustre at this stage of the album, this song never compromises its strutting heavy edge even while taking a slightly poppier approach.

The album seems to run out of steam for its last few tracks, as the songs blend a little too closely together and despite intriguing individual stems never really stand out. That said, “December” ends the record on a very high note. It’s soft and emotional, with harrowing vocals wailing sadly over a solitary, desolate guitar. More instruments join in gradually as the song progresses, adding a touch of momentum before it cuts back again and peters along in a troubled, haunted manner before fading out. Capturing all the contrasting darkness and melodiousness of the record, it’s a fitting and mysterious ending that amply compensates for any overkill that has gone before.

The Death of Greeley Estates is an adventurous album, rough-hewn and edgy but which features a beautiful softness at its core. It’s almost cinematic in its elegiac backing elements, but a scintillating and rambunctious metal experience nonetheless. The skill of the band in combining so heavy a sound with so refined an accompaniment is impressive, and even if the album bores you a little at times, it’s intelligent food for thought that ought to linger.

SCORE: 9/10
Review written by: Grace Duffy

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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