May 30, 2010

Album Review: "When Will We Surrender" by Hundredth

There's not a lot of room for error in the melodic hardcore genre. Bands that choose to embrace this style need to walk a very fine line between balls-out, tough-guy hardcore and overly melodic post-hardcore, without leaning too heavily on either style. Comeback Kid and Diecast were among the first bands to master the genre, and thus are often considered its founding bands. In recent years, a multitude of new bands have emerged playing a similar style, while mostly utilizing screaming vocals and very little clean singing. For the Fallen Dreams, The Ghost Inside, and For Today are the biggest new names in the genre, but one very young band that has the potential to take the entire scene by storm is Hundredth. On their debut album, When Will We Surrender, the quintet from Myrtle Beach, SC sounds like a group of seasoned veterans, melding the best elements of their classic influences with the style of the genre's new leaders.

Hundredth knows how to write strong, catchy lead lines and harmonies, which is the strongest part of their compositions. Their music is upbeat and has plenty of tonality, but is still incredibly heavy at the same time. The band also isn't afraid to utilize breakdowns, but unlike a lot of debuts from newer hardcore bands, When Will We Surrender isn't oversaturated with breakdowns, using them only when a song will be enhanced by including one. This compositional restraint shows a lot of maturity on the part of Hundredth, which is only increased by the balance in their sound. The heaviness of "Catalysts", "Betrayer", and "Sinking" is evenly contrasted by the relatively light sound of "Willows", "Desolate", and the instrumentals "Fade" and "Rise". The entire album is similarly even in its tone, with equal parts brutality and melody between and within songs.

Vocalist Chadwick Johnson is remarkably consistent in his vocal strength, and his delivery is powerful no matter what the lyrics are. Thankfully, the lyrical message is equally powerful to match Johnson's performance. The lyrics deal with intensely personal topics of life struggles and fighting against the destructive forces of society, all from a Christian perspective. Fans of Christian metal and hardcore will immediately become attached to Hundredth because of the unapologetic theology in their lyrics. And while the religious nature of the lyrics might turn off some fans that prefer to leave spirituality of music, most listeners will be able to appreciate the vocal quality enough to either ignore or learn to enjoy the lyrics. Johnson is joined by guest vocalists from the melodic hardcore scene on three separate tracks. Matthew Hasting of Mychildren Mybride appears on "Catalysts", adding his rough-edged growls to the opening track for added variety. Even more enjoyable, though, are the appearances of Ian Fike (It Prevails) and Jonathan Vigil (The Ghost Inside) on "Willows" and "Desolate", respectively. Both Fike and Vigil perform clean vocals that perfectly complement Johnson's screams, creating powerful vocal moments within both songs.

When Will We Surrender may be one of the best new albums in melodic hardcore, easily displaying the best aspects of the genre without betraying any of its shortcomings. Hundredth has a lot of potential to break out very quickly, especially when their no-holds-barred live show is added to the mix. Combined with a debut album like this, it's easy to see that this band has a very promising future.

Score: 8 out of 10

Track Listing

1. Catalysts
2. Willows
3. Betrayer
4. Passion
5. Caving
6. Desolate
7. Fade
8. Sinking
9. Greater
10. Rise
11. Brighter
12. Sun
13. Shine

Album Personnel

Chadwick Johnson - Vocals
Alex Blackwell - Guitar, backing vocals
Andrew Minervini - Guitar
Michael Raymo - Bass guitar
Matt Koontz - Drums

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