Pridelands - Light Bends (Cover Artwork)


Light Bends (2022)

Sharptone Records

The parameters of metalcore have long been criticised for being limiting, or too prescriptive. The irony is that there are still various corners of the metal community who argue about what is and is not metalcore. Some people will point to the likes of The Dillinger Escape Plan or ETID as metalcore. Some immediately think of Killswitch Engage or the earlier Parkway Drive records. But the rise of the more polished end of the scene does seem to draw more ire than the others. And to be fair, there are a lot of bands who make a good argument for this being justified. And although there are still bands like While She Sleeps and Ice Nine Kills doing interesting things with modern metalcore (incorporating more electronics, anthemic choruses and full commitment to concepts and themes), for every one of those, there are many more Memphis May Fires, Asking Alexandrias and We Came As Romans who are very happy to stay rigidly in their lane of cookie-cutter, (relatively) radio-friendly metalcore that saturates Spotify playlists, and in fairness to them, probably makes them some half-decent money. So. When a new metalcore band surfaces on Sharptone Records, who have a good, if not unblemished record with these bands (in my opinion), then I suspected this would go one way or the other.

My first impressions were not great. Though the record’s 11 tracks didn’t seem excessive in any way, the first listen through felt like every one of it’s 45 minutes. There is a lot of reliance on programmed drums, synths and vocal effects to seemingly try and create some kind of dystopian ‘Ghost In The Shell’ atmosphere and although it doesn’t always work, at least Pridelands are trying. Another thing that seems to have become increasingly prevalent in metalcore currently, is the need for at least one ballad on a record. It’s almost getting to the ‘pop punk acoustic number at the end of a record’ level in its predictability and I can’t say I’m a huge fan. “Safer Here” with its piano and synth intro, clean vocals (for the most part) and ineffectual crescendo just did nothing for me. I did find the juxtaposition of the screamed vocals towards the end of the song slightly more interesting, but the damage had been done by that point, sadly.

I think it would be remiss to write this record up and not mention either Architects or Polaris. I do suspect that the success of the former and the influence of the latter (in Pridelands’ native Australia, especially) may well have had a significant influence on this band. I’m not so naïve as to think that a band can only be worthwhile if they don’t overtly carry their influences, but I think Pridelands have hit on a compromise that doesn’t have the craft of Architects or the impact of Polaris and in some places veers dangerously close to sounding like a ‘Jared Leto cosplays metalcore’ project. And no-one needs that. Even when the band go full throttle in “Antipathy” or lead single “Heavy Tongue” the production leaves the songs feeling neutered. There is no real bite to the guitar tone and even the vocals, ably provided by Joshua Cory and Mason Blunt, often feel like they fall between two stools, stylistically. Also, the record is noticeably bereft of memorable hooks for the most part, which is a problem.

All this being said, I am acutely aware of the feverish excitement that surrounds some of the latest crop of bands in this scene such as Spiritbox and Sleep Token. Interestingly, many people with whom I share a significant degree of my musical tastes are very much ‘all in’ when it comes to these bands, where I still find myself out in the cold, so to speak. As such, I must accept that to some extent I’m simply not predisposed to this more synthetic version of metalcore. However, when listening to Pridelands for this review, I also dipped in and out of Spiritbox for a direct comparison and it’s immediately obviously that Pridelands have some significant ground to make up from a songwriting perspective. That is hardly harsh criticism though, given that Spiritbox’s Eternal Blue featured heavily in AOTY lists in 2021.

Overall, I think that this is a mediocre record in a genre I find myself struggling more with as the years go on and as this portion of the scene develops. To Pridelands’ credit, they do still have occasional moments of legitimate heaviness, though they are sparse and fleeting. However, this, I suspect, is not the thing they are trying to lean into. There is very clearly an active and burgeoning market for precisely this kind of thing right now. But those who have succeeded with it are conspicuous by their ability to write powerful, anthemic songs and as it stands, Pridelands have a little way to go.