Second Arrows - Second Arrows (Cover Artwork)

Second Arrows

Second Arrows (2020)

Hellminded Records

For some reason, whenever a set of press notes really leans into the band in question being ambitious, unique, or creating something entirely new, although these are things that I find it admirable for a new band to aspire to, I’m more often than not overcome with a rank scepticism. A sense of “Yeah. Sure. Unique.” Which is maybe not the best attitude to have, but I think it’s born of fatigue and disappointment which I subconsciously associate with that angle being peddled in press notes all too frequently. The silver lining to this self-generated cloud is that when something comes along that is more deserving of that particular line of publicity, then it’s all the more enjoyable. Having said that, there are reference points I can reach for when describing the sound of Second Arrows self-titled debut, but I guess the point is that the result doesn’t sound like any one of those influences. To make things a little clearer, Second Arrows has quite the lineup when you look at it: Chris “Crispy” Corvino on vocals, Chris Byrnes (ex-ETID) on guitar, Pete August from The Banner on bass and Nora’s Chris Ross on drums. So there’s no question about the pedigree. Oh, and the record is produced by Kevin Antreassian from Dillinger. That collection of contributors is almost to the point of being so strong that it seems implausible that the result could live up to them. The ‘Them Crooked Vultures Effect’ if you will. Almost.

Second Arrows are an exciting prospect, basically. Even more so when you listen to them, arguably. Their music has an unusual quality; it feels like its various constituent parts…being played at the same time. I know that sounds dumb, but I think what I’m trying to convey is that it has a sense of being recorded live. Not in a way that feels necessarily sparse or overly-raw, but in a way that feels slightly untamed. Like the rivets holding the parts together are showing signs of rattling out of their housing. I’m almost tempted to use the word rickety, but that would give the wrong impression. It could be said that it’s the ‘noise’ aspect of their music, but it still feels too catchy and hook-laden to be truly noise in style. The vocals are sometimes lo-fi, sometimes doubled, sometimes layered with screams behind, but always feel utterly authentic. There’s no sense of pretence or of trying to emulate a style, either. I suppose you could point to Keith Buckley, Liam Cormier or occasionally even Frank Carter, but do you have a problem with any of those? I thought not. Musically, the band veer from mathy hardcore to Southern-tinged rock ‘n’ roll, to a sort of patient and considered stoner/alt-rock hybrid. If that sounds a bit like the band are spreading themselves too thinly, I’m glad to say that isn’t the case at all. Diversity is one of the major aspects of their sound, but it is a sound that is exactly that; theirs.

For some specific examples, Floyd Rush is a doomy, slow-paced song with Corvino’s vocals coming at you from all angles, in myriad styles (anguished and raw, to quasi-spoken word, low in the mix) until around the 3-minute mark when the song kicks into a proggy passage, before picking up the pace and closing out with a chugging, metallic outro. Spindles uses what I believe is a vintage Godzilla sample at the end of one of its riffs that gives the song a sense of almost cartoonish playfulness and One Tonne Temple Bell has 4/4 stomping punk, tremolo-picked chugs and dual lead work, before descending into a series of riffs that could scarcely feel more like being shit-faced in a mosh pit (a feeling which I’m guessing a lot of us are missing at the moment) all the while having a genuine rock ‘n’ roll sensibility to it. Then at the more direct end of the spectrum, Moustacheo is built primarily around a pair of monolithic, swampy riffs that lurch into the fore/background of the song intermittently, but in the passages where they draw back, intricate lead guitar work dripping in reverb, twinned with almost cautionary lyrics and vocal delivery, including a very pointed ‘Be careful…’ refrain generate a real sense of foreboding and mean that the impact each time those riffs hit is enormous.

Despite all of this, the record maintains its own style and character immaculately, somehow. I suppose you could point to the likes of Glassjaw, Unsane or some of the Scandi-punk bands like Blood Command or Kvelertak when doing the usual FFO, but I think if you like any of the bands that I’ve referenced here, then you owe it to yourself to listen to this record. Because I think this is fucking brilliant. The fact that it’s come out at a time when the world is showing some early signs of beginning to emerge from one of its bleakest periods in recent history is merely coincidence, but it does somehow feel right. I want to go outside, I want to interact with people, I want to go to shows and I really want to see Second Arrows.