By None The Less
There's no denying that None The Less' mini album is an impressive one, but it's also one that has some very clear negative points, in addition to good ones.
On the positive side, None The Less aren't stuck when it comes to writing riffs. Almost every song on this seven track effort boasts an unusual and inventive bit of guitar-work that will hang around in your head more stubbornly than the lyrics. They can also nail an anthemic chorus, with the band churning out an impressively spacious sound, while vocalist Anthony Giannaccini ups drama levels with some big, urgent vocals.
On the other hand, None The Less have a problem with moving from one idea to the next. Almost every song lurches from the verse to the chorus, as None The Less flick from heavy rock, to big, radio-bothering choruses. There's a danger that neglecting to ease the listener between these two contrasting sounds, will prevent them from getting properly caught up in the song.
The tracks where this is most evident, are 'News of Cancer,' 'Four Fours' and 'I Had The World Resting On Me.'
On 'News Of Cancer' there's far too much of a lurch between the galloping verse and the emotional wrench of the chorus, although once you've gotten over the initial jolt, the chorus is enthralling stuff. The vocals and the drums of the first verse also don't sit neatly together, and consequently it's difficult to get a grip on an overall tune.
However, 'News of Cancer' redeems itself with one of those unusual riffs None The Less do so well. The riff in question judders and chugs before flying off on an infectiously frivolous tangent. And it only get better in terms of guitar work, as None The Less crisscross this great hook with some whining, oddly mechanical sounding riffing. Anytime either, or even better, both of these crop up, 'News of Cancer' instantly becomes a darker, more intense beast. The pre-chorus combo of blastbeat drumming and riffs, sounds particularly crushing.
'I Had The World Resting On Me' perfectly mirrors 'News of Cancer's highs and lows. More thinking-outside-of-the-box guitar-work is on the cards here, most notably during a brilliant instrumental introduction. Shunting between deep, reverberating riffs, and more squealy, upwards-reaching guitar work, and accompanied by punishing drum blasts, 'I Had...'s intro is a master class in how to make heaviness interesting.
Those neat riffs continue to rumble beneath the first part of the verse, until None The Less pull another attention-grabbing riff out of the bag, and drag it like a blunt saw across the song.
But, while 'I Had...' may excel in twisting your mind with its guitars, None The Less are again guilty of lurching from grinding and nasty verse, into towering chorus. None The Less can clearly pull off both metal, and a more accessible sound, but they can't bridge the gap between the two. The same applies to the breakdown of rumbly drumbeats and hammering riffs, which then plunges straight back into that swirling, epic chorus.
Every component part of 'I Had...' works brilliantly in isolation, None The Less just need to work on bringing them together into one coherent whole.
'Four Fours' is this EPs most fast and furious offering, with an intro where sheets of riffs shoot across tight, fast drum rolls. The first verse keeps things moving along, although the riffs are broken up into a buzzy, rough-and-ready pulse that gives the whole thing a nicely under-produced feel.
But then it's time for the chorus and, unsurprisingly, the chorus seems to have been lifted from a completely different song. It has a hooky, melodic stamp and a slowly-building energy that'll have you on the edge of your seat - it just feels like it has nothing to do with the rest of the song.
However, 'Four Fours' is the song where None The Less, encouragingly, get one change-over absolutely spot on. This is during the post-chorus segment where Giannaccini's soaring vocals and the urgently-trembling chords snowball dramatically, only to collapse into themselves, while the vocals continue to soar across breakdown-style drumbeats and chuggy riffs. Here, None The Less have no problem making their ideas flow. Hopefully, the few glitches on this mini-album, are merely teething problems.
First single 'Define' is a song where it's all about the drumbeats. In this case, it's a possessed-sounding clatter that may speed up and slow down over the course of the song, but never approaches anything resembling a normal drumming speed. Cut across with big, swaggery riffs and a liberal helping of screamed secondary vocals, 'Define' is hardcore-influenced rock, and is this mini-album's darkest, nastiest moment.
Mini-album opener 'The Payout' has a classier, more straight-up rock sound than 'Define.' Kicking off with an infectious, rock 'n' roll swagger, 'The Payout' proceeds to stomp into a verse where it's all about the drums. Grating riffs jab between those machine-gun drum rolls, in a juddery, straining first verse that'll convince you None The Less are building up to a big, chorus blow-out. Thankfully, they are, as the Watford five-piece push the boundaries of their sound and unleash an avalanche of guitars, overlaid with soaring vocals.
None The Less close their album with the weaker of the seven tracks, 'I Feel Like Your Enemy.' The choruses are strong efforts, with richly layered supporting vocals all lamenting "I feel like your enemy," which will give your heart strings a good wrenching and, more importantly, gives 'I Feel Like Your Enemy' that all-important 'end of album' feel.
However, elsewhere, the vocal performance is surprisingly weak. Giannanccini occasionally sounds strained on the verses, and his whispered, spoken-word vocals are very cheesy.
None The Less put their chorus to good use, in an electric final blow out where the gang backing vocals are brought to the top of the mix to do battle with the main vocals. Even though it has some shaky moments, 'I Feel Like Your Enemy' goes out on a high, and just might have you hitting the repeat button.
This mini-album presents a band with some very clear good points, and areas they need to work on. Thankfully, the always-inspired riffs, dramatic choruses and scowling metal-tinged verses are good enough to keep you coming back for more. The bits inbetween may make these songs a little hard to swallow at times, but if None The Less can get rid of those awkward changeovers, then we might be about to hear a lot more from these guys.