Belvedere and Downway both hail from Calgary, hence the “Hometown Advantage” title, but their split is firmly steeped in the current Californian sounds. Both bands show shades of Strung Out, Thrice and the melodic and vocal influences of the “emotional-hardcore” trend.
Based on the songs on this split, Belvedere is the most immediately enjoyable of the two acts. The band’s muscular, technical and overall fast musicianship gives them an edge. Their song structures are varied enough so that each of their five tracks stands out with it’s own character and influences. “Home Ice Advantage” kicks off their half with the kind of thrash and speed metal guitar play that so infatuates their countrymen in Propagandhi. “Paradise” is a more traditional melodic punk song that’s executed flawlessly. Its cohesion is countered by chaotic second half of Belvedere’s set. While the multiple vocalists and constantly shifting tempos are interesting to listen too, they aren’t all that memorable after the fact.
Belvedere however has the added trump cards of Brian Baker and Steve Hansgen. The duo’s production and mix really benefit and energize the band’s sound, not to mention the motivation of getting to work with two members of the mighty Minor Threat.
It’s compared to this energy that Downway suffers. The mix on their five tracks is a bit muddier and definitely lacks the punch of Belvedere’s side. Their leadoff track “Forever Is The End” has a strong chorus and build-up, but I can’t help getting the impression I’ve heard the song before. A lot of their tracks seem to do that on “Hometown Advantage” and while definitely a competent band, Downway’s song writing seems derivative. The same applies to the down tempo alt-rock ballad “August” which turns down the tempo at the moment when the band desperately needed to hook me. Downway’s last few contributions were decent, especially “Designated For The Weak,” but I still have no feeling for what distinguishes them from so many similar groups.
Fans of both these bands should definitely check this out for the new songs, however for me there was a simply a lack of hooks here. Maybe it’s just the time constraints of getting half a CD in which to leave a strong impression, but once this disc is done spinning I have a hard time remembering much of it.