There is almost no one who could listen to the Carrier's debut full-length, One Year Later, and say that it's bad. It contains solid musicianship, great production and an overall confident feel. There is even a good grasp of personal voice shining through the clear American Nightmare and Modern Life Is War influences; however, it ultimately sounds like a band in training, just shy of reaching the dizzying heights they strive for.
Coming across as deeply personal, the Carrier, like many modern hardcore bands, attempts to document the dark times in life; questioning oneself and wrestling with demons. This is evoked not only in the lyrics, but also in the music with varying tempos and near-constant use of octave guitar chords, often in harmony. It lends an epic and catastrophic feel to the record. However, when every second is intended to be emotionally devastating on a grand level, it detracts from the overall effect, and the record, for the most part, is unable to shed the curse of just sounding like one long song, as good a song as it may be.
The Carrier's biggest strength is their overall sound. At any given spot on the record it just sounds good and the band plays together extremely well. Vocalist Anthony Traniello has an enviable screaming voice, thick and full, but never sounding tough-guy or annoying. If the lyrics are to be trusted, it's hard to believe that he was 19 at the time of the recording as he has the delivery of a seasoned veteran.
Undoubtedly, many people will love this record, but there are several less than perfect moments, from a near pointless instrumental intro track to some strange choices in the lyric phrasing. As much as I enjoy the first full song, "Wasted," I will forever be bugged by the opening lines stating, "I will not wait for you, and I'll never wait for you to be the person you promised to be." Repetition like this strikes me as awkward, and it is small flaws like this that separate the album from what I believe the band is capable of.
Besides the band itself, one aspect of the album worth noting is the superior production. Records on small labels aren't supposed to sound this good and with this release and others, Jay Maas and the Getaway Group Studio are raising the bar on what smaller bands' records can sound like. Every instrument is thick and defined without ever sounding fake and glossy. It sounds just as good in my car and on tiny computer speakers. Also of note is Ken Stewart's cover art, which perfectly matches the dark sound of the band.
One Year Later shows a young band full of promise. All the ingredients of a stunningly good band are there, but because they strive for so much with their music, it feels like they need a little bit more time in the kitchen to perfect their recipe and hone their execution. I look for this band to remedy their flaws on subsequent releases and become a driving force in the hardcore world.