Sound: Just looking at some background info, you would think that Evergreen Terrace were a pop punk band. They take their name from The Simpsons (Fall Out Boy? ); their song titles are often tongue-in-cheek (for example, Chaney Can't Quite Riff Like Helmet's Page Hamilton) and they take some serious influence from Rise Against. However, as soon as I put their new album, Wolfbiker, their Metal Blade debut into my computer and take a listen, I realise how very wrong I was. They've got some bite. The opening track, 'Bad Energy Troll' starts with vocalist Andrew Carey screaming This is a curse! and straight away you're thrown into an energy-packed hardcore-fest.
Of course, with a clear-cut opening like that, the first thing that you must pay attention to is the vocals. I'm not a massive fan of hardcore vocals, but, as with most bands that fashion this vocal style, you get used to it with more listens. Andrew Carey's vocals are tremendously hard hitting, and while his technique doesn't seem to be perfect (I'm no expert on vocals like this but it doesn't sound like he's gonna be keeping that sound for long before his throat gives out), he delivers every word with aggression and passion (especially on 'To The First Baptist Church Of Jacksonville'). Evergreen Terrace take a lot of different influences and incorporate them into their sound (hardcore, metalcore, punk, pop-punk, rock n' roll, you name it), and Casey does well to adapt to them. He retains his own raspy style well but has a good awareness of the sounds around him, and delivers every line with exactly the right amount of effort. I don't have any previous material from Evergreen Terrace, but just listening to a few of their older tracks I can safely say that Andrew Carey is a massively improved vocalist. If you're into the hardcore vocal style, you'll love this guy. If you're not then you'll probably hate him, but I did at first, and you do get accustomed to his vocals.
Most of the songs on the album have a section or two which are sung with clean vocals, and I get the feeling that it isn't Andrew Carey, but it's guitarist Craig Chaney, who's also credited with vocals. These sections are some of my favourites on the whole album, because they apply some real pop sensibility and write some killer hooks. As much as 'pop sensibility' might put off a hardcore fan, they're (mostly) very well written and Craig has a great voice (similar to Brandon Saller of Atreyu, though Atreyu are, unlike Evergreen Terrace, a terrible band). These vocals are one of the best things about the album.
'Wolfbiker' was for the most part, produced by the band (with help from one Daryl Phenneger) and, to put it bluntly, they absolutely butchered the drums. The cymbals intrude on the other instruments, and, despite the fact that the bass, snare and toms sound great, intruding cymbals are a horrible pet peeve I have. Once you notice it's there, you stop concentrating on the collective music and just get irritating cymbal noises throughout the song. Once you (attempt to) get past this nuisance, the drumming is impeccable. Kyle Mims (apparently known to the band as 'Butters') has laid down a fantastic performance on 'Wolfbiker'. His beats are interesting, pinning down some big grooves, and adding urgency to a lot of the band's songs. His fills are not full of technicality but a lot of the middle sections of the songs are filled with rhythmically awkward drum parts, and they're pulled off with confidence and energy to spare ('Where There Is Fire We Will Carry Gasoline'). He is far from your typical hardcore drummer who does little more than pack the power in a half-time breakdown; Kyle's the strongest aspect of Evergreen Terrace.
Bassist Jason Southwell is a little peripheral in this unit. He seems like the kind of bassist that's only there because the band needed a low end frequency. While he does occasionally whip out some rather nice counter melodies, they're almost always placed at the wrong moments. Most of them are during choruses, where any listener will always be concentrating on the vocals. It's a shame because when he doesn't follow the guitars he actually has some good melodic application, I just wish he wouldn't have tried to shine when it was clear that someone else is meant to be at that point.
Joshua James and Craig Chaney, guitarists of Evergreen Terrace, have some great chemistry. Their breakdowns, while incredibly generic (as all breakdowns are in metalcore) are punctuated by their tone (produced by, according to the booklet, Kustom, Peavey and Mesa Boogie amps, ESP and Schecter guitars and Dean Markley strings). The influence of bands like Rise Against is obvious on the album, as one guitar will often take a simple rhythm part, and the other will play an octave-based melodic part, which stinks of pop-punk (this is used to great effect on 'Chaney Can't Quite Riff Like Helmet's Page Hamilton', which is an ironic title because the song's guitar work is almost a polar opposite of the sort of thing you'd hear on a Helmet song). There are a few fishy bits on 'Wolfbiker', where they take their formula one step too far, or where they seem to rip off their own songs (one of the riffs in 'The Damned' reminds me greatly of their classic track 'No Donnie, These Men Are Nihilists'). Nevertheless, their work combines different styles together well and their technique seems to be flawless (in particular their pinch harmonics, which are distinctly American sounding). The only real faults in their performance are found when you're looking for them, and not once do they take away from the enjoyment of a song. // 8
Lyrics: The band's lyrics are really an acquired taste. Much like their music, they combine typical lyrical themes from hardcore, metal and pop-punk. Andrew's phrasing is brilliant, and that always helps when you look at the lyrics, but the themes are clich as hell and their writing style doesn't fully redeem that. I don't mind a song about breaking up with your girlfriend (as an example, Evergreen Terrace haven't written a song about it here) if it's written well, no matter how clich the topic is. However the writing style (while effective during choruses, breakdowns and the like) seems to be aimed at the young teenage boys who, let's face it, will buy albums like these and find out they're the world's biggest brutal death metal fan. Lines which are meant to be heard are weak for the most part. For example, This time we finally made it, which makes very little sense. The passion in some of the songs is commendable though, and despite the band clearly being in good humour, they have some serious messages to put across and they are put across well, albeit not in a particularly artistic fashion. There are two songs that have lyrics which really work for me, and they are 'Rip This! ' and 'To The First Baptist Church Of Jacksonville' (the latter giving the finger to the Baptist Church of the band's hometown, Jacksonville, Florida). 'Rip This! ' has a less obvious target but the imagery packs more than enough punch to make up for this. // 6
Overall Impression: I wasn't expecting to like this album, and only a few songs in I began to dismiss it as rubbish but the more I listened, the more I liked this album. I can't really make a fair comparison to other albums from Evergreen Terrace, but the highlights of 'Wolfbiker' (the title track, 'Starter' and 'The Damned') are better than the songs I'm familiar with from their past material. The song structures, melodic guitar and hook-ridden choruses make this album a good listen for anyone who can stand hardcore vocals. // 9