Can I be that guy who’s all “I was into them when before they had vocals”? Because I was. And still am. Here’s why:
You know how there’s certain bands that speak to you even when they don’t have vocals? That’s Harborlights. And then they went ahead and added (some) vocals and manage to speak even more. On Isolation Ritual, their debut full-length, this Massachusetts quartet bring listeners on a sonic journey like no other that picks up where Isis left off to fill this void in the post-rawk community.
“Hold the Dark” is the absolute best introduction for the short attention span generation. With the way the song careens through time signatures giving new listeners a feel of what’s to come by highlighting the strength of the band from the start, it’s hard to imagine anyone not falling in love with Harborlights after this opener. But let’s dissect it a little more, shall we? There’s Christine Smith’s epic rumbling bass work, Andrew Diaz and Matthew Wright’s glorious guitars which equally scream to the stratosphere and grind to the underworld (Thrice especially comes to mind with the tones and atmosphere) and then there’s Jordan Rodriguez who keeps the peace and the pace through the changing tempos and styles with Wright’s delicately angelic vocal performance reminding us of defunct Boston outfit Kimone and their lead vocalist Tim Den but with a stronger presence.
Speaking of pace, Rodriguez easily stands out on the driving “Eternal Return” which bludgeons listeners with beautifully crafted bouts of aural excellence on a song that’s kind of a “Back to our roots” thing as the instrumental behemoth lumbers on. “Skinwalker” follows suit sans Wright’s vocals but his guitar sings instead alongside Diaz’s who both bring an unstoppable wailing crunch with Smith’s fuzzy tones layering the track as Rodriguez accents everything just perfectly.
“From Virtue (Sacrament)” is as if Dallas Green (Alexisonfire) fronted Codeseven (Look ’em up, they’re brilliant) as this swirling, gorgeously crafted atmosphere expands the Harborlights sound even more. “A Stable Mind” is anything but as it borders on an anxiety attack with the way the guitars scream at listeners during this quiet interlude while “Year Without A Summer” is like Radiohead (Circa The Bends) meeting up with Team Sleep or Palms for brunch with the way Wright delivers these broad vocal passages.
“…And Hell Followed” is a pretty good descriptor when it comes to this track with four minutes of Harborlights at their most gnarliest with Rodriguez standing out as the definitive timekeeper while simultaneously bring a barrage of cacophonous noise. Inevitably all good things must come to an end as this bad boy does in grand fashion when “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” comes crashing in and traverses all of Harborlights musical personalities, culminating with a guest appearance from Aviator’s Tj Copello’s who brings guttural scream to conclude the record.
Isolation Ritual is out through Deathwish on September 13th. Pre-order options are up for perusal by clicking here or here. For more on Harborlights, including dates for their upcoming tour that features a listening party at Notch in Salem on September 12th and a record release party at Sammy’s Patio in Revere on September 21st, follow the band here and here.