Engineer Records' last three-way split was a mixed bag, but it was a fairly diverse one: You had the melodic D.C. sounds of Saboteur, the more energized version with the Mockingbird Nightmare and questionable nü-screamo type stuff from Red Light Green Light. With the newest installment featuring three fairly similar bands (and co-released by Malaysia's Embrace Records), the sacrifice of variance for a linear touch comes at the expense of overall quality.
Elemae play melodic yet subtle emo rock, basking in a territory Sense Field might have treaded if they actually released Under the Radar on Warner Bros. Opener "Pulse" has a decent enough hook that ushers in the album well. "Hospitals & Mazes" is pervaded with gloomy basslines and riffs, and ominous vocals in the chorus; during the bridge, their vocalist's more gruff moments are reminiscent of Cross My Heart's. "Fiction Mouth" almost conjures up Fugazi feelings during its incomprehensible yells, but its closure is more reflective and less angular. Overall, their trio of contributions is all right, though it's not particularly memorable or containing anything that makes the listener really want to immediately go back and relive it.
Though certainly heavier, Memorial don't stray too far from Elemae's style; they reside somewhere between mid-`90s Revelation acts like Gameface and Farside, but neither the sincerity nor the songwriting really hits like their influences. Of course, there might be a bias at play here, since this reviewer was never quite enthralled by frontman Pete Appleby's former band, Renee Heartfelt. All told, though, things are a little more interesting than the triplets from Memorial's split compatriots; "If It Helps" is a nicely dynamic rock number, while "Munich" adopts some Appleseed Cast-ish tones for its guitars.
Soon is the lone band here not residing on the east coast of the United States; in fact, they're not even from the same continent. They're a veteran Belgian act that have been around since 1996, indie rock that's hard to draw immediate comparisons to. "There Go the Boys" isn't the best song on this disc, but it's definitely the catchiest and biggest sounding. The other two are older, deriving from a 2005 album titled Under the Wire. "Inverse Ratio" has some pretty frenetic guitars; I would draw a comparison with Sparta if not for the faster parts of the song.
The presentation and artwork on this split among Elemae, Memorial and Soon is elegant and enjoyable, and its aural content is just as smooth. The three bands' teamwork doesn't serve us the most satisfying results, but it might be worth a listen for a new surprise.
Elemae / Memorial / Soon -- Split, on Punknews.org