The mythological phoenix is said to be reborn from the ashes of its former glorious self, a story all to appropriate for Phoenix hardcore group American Standards. Forming in 2011, American Standards emerged from the ashes of a genre that had choked itself to death with frivolous breakdowns and meaningless lyrics. On April 15th they released their 5th offering, the full-length sociopolitical Anti-Melody.
I am usually pretty good at figuring out the genre and sound of a band by simply looking at a promo picture of all of the members together. Deathcore is young dudes, covered in tattoos wearing plain t-shirts and jeans, scowling with their arms crossed. Black/Death/Doom is long hair, everyone wearing black from head to toe and someone (usually the vocalist) is wearing jewelry, usually rings. Thrash is a denim vest, and has one completely bald dude with an epic long beard. I can go on but you get the picture.
So when vocalist Brandon Kellum reached out to us for a review, I took a look at the band’s promo picture and immediately thought metalcore, maybe influenced by post-hardcore…..Asking Alexandria or Falling in Reverse-ish. He and I spoke for a bit and he said that American Standards was what I expected. I was immediately excited because I love metalcore and we do not receive nearly enough metalcore albums for review from bands, management, labels, and/or PR folks (if you are reading this…..hook us up). We, however, receive 25-30 black, death, doom, and/or thrash albums a day (yes, a day) and don’t get me wrong, we love these genres, but we enjoy diversity and mixing it up every now and then is always fun.
Anyway, I figured I would listen to the album while doing dishes and cooking dinner, so I downloaded it and headed for the kitchen……I pressed play on the first track, “Writers Block Party” and nearly shit myself…..the sound of a door closing and then Kellum is screaming at me, the guitars are going a million miles a minute, and it is all happening so fast that I have no idea what the fuck is going on. I’m confused, mind fucked is probably the more appropriate phrase; I walk back to my office and open up the band’s Facebook profile again to look at the picture…..they are pretty, young dudes just like I remember.
Shaken to my core, I once more saunter to the kitchen and press play, again on “Writers Block Party”….door closing and then Kellum is screaming at me, everything is happening so fast…..WHAT IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW? I have no idea, but I can’t feel my legs and have the sudden urge to take a hammer to all of the dishes in my sink and start throwing shit…..The guitars are fast, perfectly timed to Kellum’s vocals, and then it slows down for a minute when Kellum almost raps but in a super cool way, and then we are back to raging lunatics. Miraculously my dishes remain intact, but for how long I do not know. I am completely enthralled, overwhelmed, and my heart is racing….I must hear more, I must go forward, and so I do.
Track after I track I find myself not headbanging, but doing some strange, vicious side to side headshake….what is this new headwag thing I’m doing? I have no idea, but I am enjoying it. The fourth track “Bartenders Without Wings” begins, it is completely different than the last three and is quite possibly the coolest thing I’ve ever heard. It starts with gritty, dirty guitars. Slow (completely different than the previous three tracks that is for sure) and then the vocals begin, this time more of a pleading yell than a scream. It’s almost as though Kellum has in fact been drinking, but not slurring and incoherent. More like he is having that drunken moment when you pour your heart out to someone because it is the first time you are truly honest? Yes, that one. It is absolutely wonderful.
The single “Cancer Eater” begins with almost thrash style guitars, fast and furious (Vin Diesel would be proud). The opening lyrics “my father was a working man, he worked all his life until he died, he fought for everything he had, I was the last to say goodbye” are like a one-two shot to the face, especially with context. Kellum wrote the song about his father who passed away from cancer, as a cathartic coping mechanism. Usually memorial songs are soft and beautiful but “Cancer Eater” is neither of these things, instead it is direct and ruthless. The chaos is actually more authentic than a ballad, much closer to the feeling of losing someone close to you.
The final track on Anti-Melody is difficult to explain, the tempo is slower; it almost has a sludgy grind feel to it. It is still heavy as steel balls and lyrically it is quite depressing, yet true (stop being so honest). There is a breakdown……a slow, churning breakdown versus the standard bass drop….so unexpected, so brilliant. This track, “Chicago Overcoat”, is the perfect track to close out Anti-Melody not only because of its pace but its message…..”Hard times are coming”. Bravo boys, bravo!
Anti-Melody is an example of everything post-hardcore…fuck it….music should be and more; it is unexpected, angry, honest, and fast. The time signature of every track is dumbfounding and genius. And there is a twist; the title of each track is nowhere to be found in the lyrics….that’s right, there isn’t a single gratuitous chorus to be found anywhere on Anti-Melody. Weird, right? No, no it isn’t….it’s fucking clever….bands should try ingenuity instead of sticking to the boring standard all the time. I’m still dumbfounded by American Standard, my brain cannot wrap its head around what it expected versus what it received…I’m confuzzled (yes, confuzzled) and I love it. American Standard’s Anti-Melody doesn’t have a genre, it isn’t post-hardcore, metalcore, or even punk…..what it is, is engaging, emotional, chaotic, aggressive, and fan-fucking-tastic. It is its own thing, its own genre. And fuck, I need to go trademark this side to side headwag I’ve been doing before Gene Simmons tries to claim it as his own. Go buy Anti-Melody, you will seriously thank me!
You can check out American Standard here:
Bloodrock Rating: 5.0 out of 5.0
Written by April Baggins for Bloodrock Media on June 29, 2017
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