Grader return this month with the much anticipated follow-up EP to 2012's Amnesty 7" - Underheaven. Recently signed to Ghost Music to release the record, the Aberdonian hardcore band recorded the EP with producer Nick Scholey, and the outcome is their most emotional and heavy output to date.
Underheaven opens with The Truth. This track starts with a somewhat harrowing sample of a Charles Manson speech, before Grader take over and a massive kick powers its way through the song, carrying with it vocalist Liam's trademark screams and huge guitars. I love a well chosen soundbite, and I have to say, as an opener, their choice blows me away.
After the heavy intro track, one thing is instantly noticeable about this new EP. Underheaven seems to have a much slower take on hardcore, which suits the vocals and lyrics brilliantly. It's not just anger, like there is with a lot of punk. There's more emotion here than any of their, or their peers', recordings. And Liam's vocals, instead of just a normal hardcore shout, are an almost rough singing, or a melodic scream. It's hard to describe. But it conveys pain in a way I've never heard in hardcore music.
The title track is as close to a ballad as Grader can get, and it's a fantastic track. It's slow, and at times the vocals aren't rough at all, but again are just pained. With a guest spot from Ashley Park, Underheaven becomes a beautiful song, and if you follow Grader, this is somewhat surprising. Their older works are some of my favourite records, but not yet have they made something as heart wrenching. Everything compliments everything else in this track. This isn't a hardcore song at all, but that doesn't matter.
As the EP continues, tracks like The War Inside and Parts showcase what Grader are best known for, but at the same time these tracks have these new, slightly slowed down, more emotional twists. And in Parts, if it weren't for the trademark roughness of the vocals, the chorus would basically be sung. And this, to me, is such a pleasant surprise.
Swiss, the track released as a preview to the EP, comes on next. And for those who haven't heard it yet, you need to rectify this now. It takes everything I've written about up until now and rams it down your throat in 3 and a half minutes.
The EP ends with On My Mind. A slow track; an angry track. It builds and builds until… Clean guitar. I wasn't expecting this. It's reminiscent of The Chariot's tactics. And as the clean guitar plays, the tension builds up to the point where you almost can't take it. Then the band comes in, and wow. It's heavy, it's angry, it's emotional, and it's probably the best way Underheaven could have ended.
Reading this back while editing, I don't think I could have blown any more smoke unless I had a length of hose and a 20 pack of Lambert and Butler. But I'll give credit where credit's due. This is a fantastic EP and I can't fault it. And one thing's for certain, I can't wait to see these tracks played live now that I've had a chance to get to know them.
Underheaven by Grader is out on March 18th via Ghost Music.