One Step Closer vocalist Ryan Savitski cries out this declaration just over halfway through the opening track on the band’s debut full-length, the aptly titled This Place You Know. Home can be a comforting place, a safe grounding that you can always return to; but when you begin to lose the real and metaphorical things that tie it together, the concept of home can become more complicated. This crossroads is where One Step Closer find themselves on This Place You Know, a record about grasping both the known and unknown, and the band’s most profound and captivating work to date.
In just five short years, One Step Closer have become a modern hardcore mainstay. One Step Closer formed in 2016 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, with Savitski and his bandmates — currently guitarist Grady Allen, drummer Tommy Norton, bassist Brian Talipan, and guitarist Ross Thompson - revering the unusually melancholic, forward-thinking youth crew hardcore acts of both the genre’s classic era and ones later into the mid-2000’s. The quintet soon dropped a raw demo, then made a splash with a self-titled EP in 2017 and gathered buzz amid regional touring. But it was 2019’s From Me to You that truly took the contemporary hardcore world by storm. The fiery EP countered existing trends in exchange for a more melodic sound, essentially completing the band’s progression from scrappy, growling youth crew act to a well-rounded, heartstring-tugging emotional hardcore powerhouse — an evolution not unlike that of their beloved genre ancestors, Turning Point. It was the type of dramatic-yet-aggressive hardcore largely not heard in over a decade: musically heavy and well-recorded, but also poetic and progressive in feel and subject matter. The band were suddenly being tapped for every notable hardcore fest in the U.S., receiving the crowd reactions to warrant it, and finding themselves on tours supporting major acts like Have Heart, Turnstile, Knuckle Puck, and Defeater.
Come February 2020, One Step Closer managed to raise eyebrows further with an invigorating promo single. And then, of course...the rest of 2020 happened. Lockdowns halted the momentum of every musician, and that alone might have been enough to put the band in a slump if not for their determination to finish writing This Place You Know. But on top of the world’s circumstances, the band struggled with different personal issues that fueled their emotions for the record – relationships deteriorating, loss of family and depression all made this time more difficult. With the touring industry completely shut down and no escape possible from this trauma, it was looking quite dark before any potential dawn. “Everything’s good and fine and you feel good being at home,” Savitski explains, “until you lose those aspects of home that you really…” He momentarily trails off. “This place just doesn’t feel the same anymore, you know?”
That’s the pervasive notion that haunts This Place You Know, a passionate and intense memorial for an especially difficult year. “We grew drastically,” Savtiski beams, and he’s not wrong. One Step Closer expanded their sound considerably, experimenting with unexpected textures, harmonies, and atmospheres, all while remaining true to their hardcore backbone. “Everyone put themselves into this record. No one held anyone back. If there was an idea that could be cool, then we’d try it.”
The songs on This Place You Know simply exude energy, with One Step Closer harnessing the most dynamic, compelling, and memorable elements of their influences from hardcore and beyond. “Pringle Street” rings with the dissonance, urgency, and melody of their Kingston, Pennsylvania neighbors and heroes, Title Fight; “Hereafter” is a true ballad with wistful singing and a piano-based coda; and “Leave Me Behind” unravels with relatable helplessness and desperation. The band also prove their crate-digging, record store clerk cred with guitarists Allen and Thompson using their impossibly despondent-sounding chords to subtly reference a gamut of obscure and cult classic emo inspirations like Flagman, Braid, and On the Might of Princes.
With life in the world beginning anew, hopefully “home” is ready to let One Step Closer go, but on much better terms. “From touring so much [those] past two years,” Savitski notes, “I was home but always ready to be leaving for the next event. I never had to sit and deal with... ‘Wow, I am just kind of stuck here and waiting.’” His traumatic experiences “made it come full circle where I was just like, ’Yeah, I need to leave.’ I just wanna get out and go do something and be somewhere else right now.” Now that the opportunity is there, expect One Step Closer to relish the moment as anticipated in “Home for the Night”: “I’m never coming home / don’t try to keep me this time."
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