Over the past couple of years, Epitaph has slowly being moving away from the pop punk that made their label famous. First with the release of the Dillinger Escape Plan and the Mike Patton EP Irony Is a Dead Scene, and then with the signing of hardcore fiends Converge, Epitaph seems to be trying to redefine what an "Epitaph-artist" is. And now with the release of the full-length debut by Scatter the Ashes, Epitaph is continuing to bring surprising new acts to the attention of hardcore punk community.
First impressions are important, and it seems as if Scatter the Ashes are ready to shatter any preconceived notions about their band or the label they're on with their debut full-length, Devout/The Modern Hymn. "Caesura" is a vicious, unrelenting piece of hardcore punk fury. Kicking off the album, the song starts with quickly strummed harmonics and rhythmic percussion. Vocalist Daryl Stamp delivers his lines with every beat of the drum as it were his last chance. It's not until the halfway mark that the band show their fangs. With an abrupt and ferocious time change, the song literally explodes, shifting into moody atmospherics and then back into the unrelenting rhythm of the opening.
Throwing the rules of pacing and expectation out the window, Scatter the Ashes have crafted an album that takes some truly surprising and satisfying turns. "City in the Sea" is fairly standard for most of the track, until again, Scatter the Ashes bring out the big guns towards the latter half of the track. Lighting a powder keg of distortion and precision playing, "City in the Sea" is finished by a tidal wave of guitar and some fantastic start-and-stop rhythm work. On "White Actress", the band surrounds their Coverge-like onslaught with some beautiful melodic guitar work and a hint of Black Sabbath-esque rock. With a simple bassline that verges on being cheesy, the band once again turns left of predictability on "Division". Propelled by solid percussion work, the song takes its time in building steam, offers a satisfying release, before retreating again into quieter territory.
In any other hands, the abruptness of these changes would fall flat, but much credit can be given to the barely contained energy Scatter the Ashes bring to the table. Of note are drummer Dillon Napier and guitarist James Robert Farmer. Napier, who's solid yet surprisingly inventive, moves seamlessly from part to part as his band-mates turn tempos and emotions on their head. As the only guitar player in the band, Farmer brings as astonishingly level of texture and innovation to even the most seemingly ordinary song structure. Producer John Naclario (My Chemical Romance, Matchbook Romance) must also be given a nod. His careful attention behind the board allows the band to explore quieter territory but never at the expense of the band's delivery of their razor-edged, explosive choruses.
Devout/The Modern Hymn is an impressive debut. With their first album, Scatter the Ashes have laid the groundwork for an exciting career. Armed with an attitude that revels in exploration, and the chops to execute their vision, Scatter the Ashes may just well lead the next wave of hardcore punk rock.