By Hot Water Music
Reunions are risky business a lot of the time. A newly reformed band will play a handful of successful shows... and then the issue arrives when they attempt to put together an album. The members of the new again band have a good go at re-sparking the fire that they had in the beginning, but instead of a roaring flame emerging, there's only a flicker of what once was.
'Exister' is punk outfit Hot Water Music's first album in eight years. Eight years. That's one heck of a time to be apart. Even 'Exister' itself has been four years in the making, with the bands reformation taking place in 2008. It'd be understandable if a long term fan was nervous about the prospect of a new album at this point, but they have no reason to be. 'Exister' not only rekindles the flame they once had; it sounds like a new band, full of life and energy.
The sound of the record sits comfortably between the groups last 2004 effort 'The New What Next' and 2002's 'Caution'. While 'Caution' was a more polished version of the blistering post-hardcore sound the band had on many records previous, 'The New What Next' saw the band take that further; slowing it down a notch to focus more on melodies and refrains. The end result for 'Exister' is a record that's perfectly paced, with fast punk numbers and slower more melodic showings.
In the eight years the band had apart, the members all dived into pastures new. The most notable of these was perhaps the solo career of Chuck Ragan, one half of Hot Water Music's vocal section. Off his own back he created three records filled with catchy sing along acoustic folk songs. This has had some impact on the sound of modern era Hot Water Music, although not in a bad way. Melodies are much tighter this time around, and vocals much clearer (but no less gruff). The latter half of the vocal barrage coming from Chris Wollard is also on top form here, and while Ragan is showcased more on furious songs such as 'State of Grace' and 'Paid In Full', Wollard shines on more tune filled songs such as 'Boy, You're Gonna Hurt Someone' and 'Drown In It'.
The production is startlingly clear, with Bill Stevenson of Descendants fame at the mixing desk. Instruments come through clear as day, with bass lines cutting sharply through the guitars packed with just the right amount of crunch, drums tightly tuned, and vocals a lot less muddy than before.
Missteps come few and far between on this thirteen track foray, with the only sore thumb being the decidedly cheese filled 'Pledge Wore Thin'. It isn't enough to completely derail the record though, as songs such as 'Drag My Body' and its huge chorus and the aforementioned furry filled 'Paid in Full' shine as the absolute highlights.
If there's any band that looks to reunite, it's perhaps wise to take a leaf out of Hot Water Musics book. Yes, it took them four years after reuniting to create a record, but it's a record that's been worth the wait and will most definitely please the faithful. This doesn't sound like an old washed up version of a band that people once knew before, this is a band that sounds completely new and revitalised, ready for another go around the circuit.