REVIEW: HRBRS – ‘Always Holding On’

HRBRS

Artist: HRBRS
Album: Always Holding On
Genre: Melodic hardcore
Label: Rooftop Records

While scouring the internet for local melodic hardcore bands to check out years ago, I stumbled upon a new Californian band by the name of Harbours. Their three-song demo was the first taste of the genre that truly captivated me, and from that point on, I kept up with their music as it continued to evolve from EP to EP. Members and vowels were lost over time, but the band now known as HRBRS are still going strong with the long-awaited release of their debut full-length finally coming to fruition.

From the get-go, it’s apparent Always Holding On is a dark piece of work with an utterly bleak atmosphere. The album’s opening cut, “Hollowed Out,” is a desolate affair that finds vocalist Matt Gutierrez setting the lyrical tone for the album as he repeatedly howls “The fire in my eyes doesn’t burn so bright these days” with an overwhelming amount of brutal honesty that hits unexpectedly hard. Another of the many choice examples comes during the end of “1993” where one of the album’s most impactful lines is spoken: “I’m just getting older; waiting for death to bring me home.” It’s only fitting that Gutierrez communicates these words through raw screams that legitimately sound tortured, and at many moments, self-depreciating.

Always Holding On’s instrumentals are a rather curious aspect. On one’s first listen, they may appear to be a bit tedious, and this is a warranted feeling as there are indeed a few lulling moments due to a lack of distinguishability from song to song throughout the album. Not straying far from the genre they are generally associated with, the group lays down some solid drumming and deep, chugging guitars while clean guitar-work floats atop it all. After further examination, though, it seems these instrumentals work less as an identifying aspect of HRBRS’ overall sound and are more of a backdrop that generates the album’s atmosphere while the vocals lead the way. In this case, the formula works, but it may not continue to succeed in the future if they do not expand their horizons. Give them some credit, though, as they do actually take on other territory in the form of an utterly beautiful guitar-centric song called “Endless” that shows there is definitely genuine talent and a willingness to experiment within the band.

HRBRS’ debut full-length isn’t a defining record that will shake the melodic hardcore scene, but it’s still an extremely solid effort that lays down the foundation for the bright future of a group with a sound that is anything but bright.

Rating: 7.75/10
Reviewed by: Michael Giegerich (Follow him on Twitter)

Mike Giegerich

Mike Giegerich is a freelance journalist with an affinity for the hip-hop scene. His top-five favorite records of all time are Future's last five releases. Feel free to blow up his mentions on Twitter.
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