Admittedly, when I hear a band described as ‘heavy, yet melodic’ the description I’ve most often heard to describe Denver, Colorado’s stoner, grunge, and post-rock dealers Abrams, I tend to recoil a bit. To me, that description hints at a purposeful mellowing, an intent of sanding the edges, and that’s just not what rock and roll is all about. So, it’s with this jaded, thick-headed approach, I dove into In The Dark, the fourth full-length from Abrams.
Now, I sat with this record a lot, listened to it a bunch, and while, I initially found myself wanting to hate on In The Dark, due to my aforementioned thick-headedness, and general aversion to melodic music, but after repeated listens, Abrams had me coming around in a big way. Abrams does indeed manage to meld melodic, soaring vocals with huge guitars, in a way that conjures up sonic comparisons to early ’90s grunge, bands like Torche, as well, as the latest Cave In record, Heavy Pendulum.
Witness opener Like Hell, as drummer Ryan DeWitt kicks the record open with a driving rock beat before the dual guitars of vocalist/guitarist Zachary Amster and guitarist Patrick Alberts explode out of the speakers. Instantly, Amster’s soaring melodic verse bathes the listener in the bands desired intent of a heavy and melodic balance. Like Hell charges along, packing a nice wallop, while simultaneously being super catchy.
Death Tripper was a track that initially had me confirming my initial concerns about Abrams sonic direction, a bit, as Amster’s melodic verse, and epic, soaring chorus literally had me thinking of a Foo Fighters-type delivery, but the melody is coupled with a charging heaviness that Mr. Grohl can only hint at. In another universe, or perhaps a time warp to 1994, this is a massive radio hit. Aggressive, dynamic, and soaring, Amster locks into a nice vocal melody with bassist Taylor Iversen, before the band hit the proverbial pedal to the metal, and rock the fuck out, before circling back into that impossibly catchy chorus.
Better Living is another track that could’ve been lifted straight from the early ‘90s, and if it was, it too would have been a massive alt-rock hit. Excellent guitar playing, in both execution and tone from Amster and Alberts lead the way, but again, it’s Amster’sepic, soaring vocals that send this track into the stratosphere.
Abrams proceed to take the listener on an epic, heavy and melodic sonic journey…
First single In The Clouds introduces itself as a charging, heavy driving monster, accentuated by Amster’s ever-present vocals that float parallel over the riffage, but instead offers many layers, rather than just being a straight-up banger. Abrams proceed to take the listener on an epic, heavy and melodic sonic journey, belaying the initial aggression. Elsewhere, both Fever Dreams, with its catchy, driving riff and hooky, soaring verse and chorus, and Body Pillow with its mellow, rolling verse that builds to a Grohl-esque mega-chorus, would be an alt-rock hit in a parallel universe, or even this one if the corporate music industry didn’t suck so bad.
The title track, In The Dark, is one of the centerpieces, and at over five minutes, it’s one of the longest tracks on the record. Abrams take their time, building the song up to a pretty epic, rocking, yet melancholy conclusion. Closer Black Tar Mountain wound up being my personal favorite. Amster and Alberts proffer some killer, chugging riffage, as DeWitt bashes away, driving the song with a steady, thrusting rock beat, while Iversen finds his place locking into a great groove. As displayed throughout In The Dark, Abrams doesn’t want to just bash you over the head with Black Tar Mountain, as the band drop into some awesome melodic bridges, before circling around with the big main riff and melancholic outro. An excellent closer to an eye-opening album.
Lyrically, In The Dark deals with all the rage, anger, fear, and anxiety that the last few years hath wrought on humanity, and the heaviness of the music coupled with the soaring hooks, achieve a contemplative, cathartic musical experience. After initial resistance to Abrams approach, I found myself really enjoying this record, singing along, and air guitaring throughout. In The Dark also sounds fantastic; huge, well recorded, as all the instrumentation is clear, with Amster’s vocals and Dewitt’s drumming being of note to this reviewer.
It’s an absolutely stacked year for killer music, and I was already fretting my year-end list, however, Abrams have perhaps added another record for me to consider. If you’re looking for an excellent balance of heavy and melodic, then In The Dark will check all your boxes. Cool album art to boot.
Scribed by: Martin Williams