Notorious, the third album from Sydney’s Buried in Verona, begins with “Maybe Next Time”, a song with pounding drums, punishing riffs, and pure hatred shouted from vocalist Brett Anderson. “If I found your burning body / I wouldn’t stop to piss on you / Let the flames lick your face / While you scream a symphony.” An aside early in the song finds Anderson saying, “This song is dedicated to the person who tried to fuck up our lives, tried to end our fucking careers, and tried to FUCK everyone around us. You know who you are, you’re a fucking piece of shit! FUCK YOUUUU!!” The song never does specify who the band is talking about, but considering that Buried in Verona parted ways with two of their longtime guitarists shortly before this album was recorded, it’s easy to make some guesses. The bile spewed in “Maybe Next Time” is so over the top that it’s almost cartoonish, but Anderson delivers the sentiment with fierce conviction. Nothing else on Notorious shows that Buried in Verona has any sort of self-awareness or sense of humor about their take on metalcore, so we’re forced to take everything they have to say at face value.
Still, “Maybe Next Time” is a truly excellent display of high school level rage, and Anderson has a massive bellow that’s both powerful and intelligible. The album’s second song, “Four Years”, starts with a similar display of vocal power, and includes a pretty great chunky guitar and kick drum riff. So it’s almost a disappointment when the song reaches its chorus and guitarist/vocalist Richie Newman shows up to some merely passable melodic singing. It’s not that he’s bad, but his voice is so weak compared to Anderson that the song’s melodic hook turns out to be its weakest part. This is a problem throughout Notorious. A song like “Lionheart”, a metalcore take on a power ballad which features only Newman, just feels limp compared to the Anderson material. When the guitars go from gentle finger-picking to power chords for the chorus, Newman’s voice gets buried despite having a soaring melody. It doesn’t help that the lyrics are laughably, cheesily earnest, “With a heart so big / And the stars so bright / You’re the light in my day / And the dark in my night.”
But that’s how Buried in Verona writes lyrics, apparently. Whatever emotion the band is trying to convey, they go big and they go all out. The great crust punk track in the middle of the album, “Couldn’t Give 34 Fucks”, is an aggressive, completely straight-faced ode to partying hard. “Why the fuck are you here if you’re not even drink(ing) / Fuck that! Light ’em up so you can’t even think / Why the fuck are you here if you’re not even pissed / Fuck that! Pick it up ’til you can’t even stand,” goes the chorus, and you absolutely believe that Buried in Verona will kick your ass if you don’t get drunk and high with them.
Unfortunately, Anderson’s powerful vocals are the most distinctive thing about Buried in Verona. Drummer Chris Melross shows a lot of power and ably backs up the band’s three guitarists, often doubling the rhythm of their riffs, and that’s a positive. But the guitarists struggle to come up with memorable riffs and guitar leads. Occasionally they’ll hit paydirt, like on “Couldn’t Give 34 Fucks” or the contrast between chunky and melodic lines on “The Descenta”. But with three guitars, the band should have more than a guy playing leads and the other two guys playing rhythm guitar, especially when Buried in Verona has a bassist and a drummer who can capably handle the rhythms. Because the band doesn’t have the ability or the interest in writing consistently intricate, or at least interesting, guitar parts, not much sets Buried in Verona apart from their peers in the metalcore genre.
Notorious is not a bad album by any means, but it’s not particularly good, either. Anderson is consistently great, even when his lyrics are borderline silly. But his vocals only account for about 70 per cent of the vocals on the album. Aside from Melross, the rest of the band is not playing on Anderson’s level, and that’s a shame since the recent turnover in the band afforded them the opportunity to find some new guitarists with a little more creativity. The fact that they didn’t means Buried in Verona is likely to stay stuck in the second or third tier of their genre while other bands continue to push forward and try new things.