Higher Power - 27 Miles Underwater (Cover Artwork)

Higher Power

27 Miles Underwater (2020)

Roadrunner Records

Buzzy, British hardcore bands are not exactly ten a penny (or a dime a dozen for the majority of readers), so when one does come along, then by definition my interest is piqued. When the buzz exists partially due to the fact that the band’s sound is more contemporary and seemingly cut from the same cloth as some of the current generation at the vanguard of (for want of a better phrase) zeitgeist hardcore, then it’s fair to say that my curiosity and my concern begin to coalesce.

Let’s address this straight off the bat; there is a lot of Turnstile in this record. Not to an extent that is fundamentally a problem, but certainly to an extent that you’re likely to find yourself thinking about it on more than one occasion. Moreover, the moments in question are often the more melodic, alt-rock leaning moments, which are one of the more prominent calling cards of the Baltimore genre-blenders. Here’s the good news, though. Higher Power are really fucking good at it. And if you’re familiar with it, you’ll probably agree these elements were on display in 2017 debut Soul Structure as well. To be fair to the band, you only have to look at the artwork on both records to see that they clearly have a love for alt-rock, grunge and the whole mid-to-late 90’s scene.

Even more compelling an argument though, is how authentic and urgent the record feels. There are surging, swinging, staccato hardcore riffs twinned with languorous vocal melodies, mixed in with yelped higher-register bursts and chorus lines that at times feel more Seattle-influenced than anything more obviously modern. In terms of guitar flourishes, there are harmonics and trills that arguably lend some of their lineage to nu-metal and then there’s the slinky, meandering, wash of guitar that often sits under the verses that again, show a genuine understanding and love for bands like the Smashing Pumpkins, Stone Temple Pilots and even Alice in Chains.

I still think there is a more limited palette to 27 Miles Underwater than you see with Turnstile’s Time & Space for example, but if you’re looking for anthemic, modern hardcore that openly nods to its influences in a way that is oddly satisfying and doesn’t detract from the record itself, then look no further. I really enjoy each and every one of the 11 songs on display here and will be jumping at the opportunity to see them live. I suppose how much you dig this might hinge on how aggressive you want your hardcore against how melodic and dare I say it, accessible. But either way, I think Higher Power have succeeded in making a really strong sophomore record in a style that maybe doesn’t belong exclusively to them, but dammit if they’re still not one of a small, elite faction doing it really fucking well.