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Album Reviews

Review: Isles & Glaciers – The Hearts of Lonely People

Isles & Glaciers – The Hearts of Lonely People

Released: March 9th, 2010
Label: Equal Vision Records
Purchase: iTunes | Amazon

Recently, I had an interesting job offer that involved going overseas. It was an exciting prospect and every ingredient was right: a lovely country, an excellent salary offer, interesting work and a hassle free move. Except, when I arrived at the place, all of these seemingly perfect elements just didn’t combine to create the dream move that I was hoping for.

Isles & Glaciers
 is an ‘all-star’ band made up of the genre’s leading players, making this EP a mouth watering prospect. You could say that if post hardcore was a sport, Isles & Glaciers would be this year’s national team. Musically, the band is overflowing with talent, with drumming duty provided by Mike Fuentes (Pierce the Veil), bass by Matt Goddard (Chiodos), guitars by Nick Martin (Underminded) and Brian Southall (The Receiving End of Sirens), plus a good helping of sampling also provided by Brian. There is no abating vocally either; Isles & Glaciers features three of the most distinctive vocalists in the genre: Jonny Craig (Emarosa), Vic Fuentes (Pierce the Veil) and Craig Owens (formerly of Chiodos).

All of these elements combined seemed, on paper, to be something I would instantly fall in love with. However, as with my trip, once I paid the EP a visit, I was left under-whelmed and disappointed by the time it reached the end. The EP moves along at a swift rate, with basic guitar parts accentuated by fast-paced drumming, tinged with electronic effects. The vocal duties are distributed evenly between the three singers who each take it in turns to perform a couple of lines before turning the spotlight over to another, in a continuous cycle.

Thus we arrive at my main gripe. Putting aside my personal distaste for Craig Owens’ vocals, I find it mystifying that three such highly regarded singers partake in this vocal relay throughout the EP, continually passing the baton to the next person without ever attempting to create harmonies with each other instead. It’s not until stand-out track ‘Viola Lion’ that an attempt is made to introduce some harmony; harmony that the previous five tracks had been screaming out for.

In the past, bands such as The Receiving End of SirensAlexisonfire and Conditions have given us excellent examples of how three diverse vocals can harmonize together to create superb melody and whilst I was fully expecting this EP to be another glowing example, it is tragically lacking any such accolade. Instead, it feels as though the vocalists wrote and performed their sections in complete isolation from each other, and whilst that may have been practical for the performers, it is a tragic waste of ability and opportunity for the listeners.

What compounds the problem is that the band have clearly identified the vocalists to be the key selling point of this record, so when the vocals fail to inspire, there is very little in terms of musical quality to rescue things. The music is simply a back-drop to allow the headline names to show what they can do. We are left with overly used electronic effects (which at times makes the acoustic drumming inaudible), unmemorable guitar parts and very little attempt at creating interesting songs.

The most frustrating part of all is that ‘Viola Lion’ is a fantastic track and demonstrates just how good this EP could have been if the band had collectively contributed to creating something with depth and coherence. As it is though, the musicians of the band have been relegated to the background in the hope that a few big name singers can carry off a series of songs without really needing to think too hard about the composition. Without the advantage of these ‘brand names’ to give the band an image, this EP would not last long as there simply isn’t enough quality in the songs to carry it.

In the end, I declined the job opportunity. Although there were many carrots dangled in front of me, they were never going to amount to a meal. There were a number of individual incentives that were persuasive but in the end, it was the very foundation of the deal that proved to be the downfall: I didn’t like the city itself. The Hearts of Lonely People has been constructed using the incentive of many extremely talented and capable individuals, but the foundation upon which every successful record is built is the quality of the songs and sadly, this EP falls short. Synergies do not arise by throwing together multiple individually attractive elements and hoping that something magical happens. My recent personal adventure, and this EP, are clear examples of this.

5.5

Standout Track: “Viola Lion”

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