Remember when punk music was fun, but had a punch? Was intelligent, but not bitchy? Aggressive, but not testosterone-laden? Melodic, but not whiny? Ryan's Hope do, and they might be here to rescue us from the recent shitstorm of make-up, girls' pants and other pseudo-scene bullshit.
Those of you who grew up listening to the melodic skatepunk of bands like Down by Law, Pulley, All and so on should be paying close attention here. But, this genre and style can become so stale and oversaturated, that good bands become a rarity, as creativeness tends to dwindle. This is exactly what sets Ryan's Hope apart...
The second release from the relatively new, yet suspiciously popular Punknews Records, Apocalypse in Increments, is a winner. Starting with the packaging, wow. If this isn't reason enough to buy CDs and quit the mass-downloading, I don't know what is. A high-quality booklet on glossy paper, with full lyrics and great artwork is always a great way to add to a release and show appreciation to those owning the album.
But that's just the wrapping paper. Kicking off the album is the highly energetic, yet very melodic "End Is Here." Vocalist Terry Morrow has a great voice with great range, easily transitioning from melodic to firm. With song themes ranging from personal reflection to social awareness, his delivery has that urgent quality that became virtually non-existent in this style of music. Very reminiscent of No Fun At All's Ingemar Jansson, or even to a higher degree, Mr. Dave Smalley.
As a 3-piece, the sound is very crisp and full, undoubtedly assisted by Dan Precision running the knobs. But aside from the technicalities, there are multiple layers to these songs; including various time changes, appropriate breakdowns, well-placed solos, and of course melodic punk's best friend: lots and lots of bridges.
The backing vocals are easily the most dynamic feature of the band's strengths using the full cast to provide "oooohs" and "ahhhhs," harmonizations and the occasional "gang chant." Drummer Greg Allton does an outstanding job keeping all of the rhythm changes in pace transition smoothly, while at the same time sounding extremely busy without the abundance of unnecessary fills that so many drummers today succumb to.
A few tracks, including "My Motivation, Your Demise" and "Reiteration," have a very bouncy feel to them, very reminiscent of older Millencolin. Combine this with the anthems and by holy shit, we have a fun album. What happened to anthems? And by "anthem" I mean those songs you'd hear on an album and know that hearing them at a show you'd be singing along, pumping your fist and shouting out those choruses. Don't believe me? Listen to "Majority" or "When Life Steals Life," which also has a lead-in from the previous, ultra-mellow "My Decision." Why don't as many bands do the lead-in anymore? It seems to always work, and done correctly can make a very powerful song a hell of a lot more epic.
My only gripe is the closer. "The Ranks" is a great song, don't get me wrong, but after the fun I had on the previous tracks, I guess I was just expecting more. I like the fun, ultra-fast lyrical delivery in the beginning, but I think the call-and-answer gang chants towards the end really let me down, especially when they go a cappella at the very end. Just a little too cliché when everything preceding it sounded so fresh and energetic.
Regardless, this is a VERY impressive album that really deserves an audience of anyone that listens to punk-related music. In a year that has already produced an amazing amount of "must own" albums, I'm more than pleased to add another one to the list.