Much like Roadrunner Records in the 1990s, a mark of contemporary quality is any band on the Holy Roar Records roster. You are guaranteed an absolute slobber knocker with pretty much everything they have put out over the last decade, whether it’s the all-out Hardcore of Employed to Serve or Secret Cutter, the Screamo of Portrayal of Guilt or the psychedelic Stoner Prog of Boss Keloid. Now turning to Post Hardcore, we as listeners should welcome the arrival of We Never Learned To Live‘s latest offering; The Sleepwalk Transmissions (Holy Roar Records).
‘Permafrost’ begins with a skeletal guitar devoid of contour and blown out drums that clip against the volume limiter of the speakers. It’s a raw and powerful way of building tension as the song unfolds into desperate, screamed vocals yearning for “The sound of humanity”. The song is a Post-Hardcore opus, like a heavier version of At The Drive In, with all the rich and textured emotions given through a versatile vocal performance. They go from shrill, throat-shredding yelps to clean and melodic choruses with ease and verve, enhancing the dynamism of the song.
Swiftly following is ‘Android Anaesthetist’, a song in a similar vein to its predecessor, with beautifully composed vocal melodies and bombastic guitar work. This is all secondary to the wit and panache the lyrics carry; this song is so wonderfully written you’ll find yourself singing along to the complex wordplay by the second refrain. You find so much emotional heft in the delivery of the bittersweet question, “I’d there anyone even out there?” that it feels as if the song is bordering on trying to get you to burst into tears. ‘Human Antenna’ ushers in a sense of lucidity and transience, exploding in vivid technicolour. The references to transmissions in the lyrical narrative give a similar feeling to Cave In and Radiohead, while the line “I consent that I cease to exist, and that’s okay” is so despairingly bleak that it leaves a lump in the throat.
The album is superbly paced with the likes of the subtle beginning of ‘The Clocks’ growing in stature to give way to the aggression of ‘Luma Non Luma’. Throughout the track list there are peaks and valleys of intensity and placidness each complimenting one another and making the juxtaposition all the more enticing. It’s impossible to pick a highlight in an album so consistent. Constant emotional heft becomes a touch wearing at times, exhausting in its baring of the members’ souls, but this is obviously a minor criticism and actually speaks to comprehensively written, cohesive Post Hardcore. This is yet again Holy Roar knocking it out of the park, and heaps of praise should be piled upon We Never Learned To Live for a competently written, mature slab of beautiful music.