Identity Crisis, The Illusion of Safety and The Artist in the Ambulance. Suicide Notes and Butterfly Kisses and The Curse. Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Silence and Worship and Tribute. Your Favorite Weapon and Deja Entendu. Translating the Name. What It Is to Burn. When Broken Is Easily Fixed and Discovering the Waterfront. Casually Dressed & Deep in Conversation. Full Collapse and War All the Time. Our Own Wars and Dead Reckoning. Alexisonfire and Watch Out!. Juturna.
These albums and many more hold a special and unique place in the hearts of a generation who came of age during the late ‘90s and early ‘00s. This particular moment in post-hardcore was (and still is) much-maligned by many, but for others, it can’t be replaced. The bands who epitomized this movement all seemed to explode out of nowhere with a sound that channeled the aggression so successfully tapped by ‘80s and ‘90s hardcore and tempered it with a striking rawness of emotion characterized by the earnest lyrical approach and melodic, pained vocals of early emo bands such as Sunny Day Real Estate and Mineral.
For fans of this specific aesthetic, the first half of the previous decade was a golden era that saw the style proliferate at a stunning rate, producing a massive array of classic albums of which many were either debut or sophomore releases by their respective artists. Over ten years later, the music world has moved on, and the definition of post-hardcore continues to evolve. But with Milwaukee band Human After All and their latest EP Don’t Worry, It Only Gets Worse, genre devotees have a new group of warriors on their side.
The six-track EP is a crisp homage to this precise period in music, and the band has all its pieces carefully in place. They themselves have undergone an interesting evolution prior to arriving at this point. Their debut 2013 EP Growing Up was textbook pop-punk in the vein of landmark Saves the Day albums Through Being Cool and Can’t Slow Down. A year later, Human After All released their follow-up The Forty Foot Bridge EP with new (and current) vocalist Mario Lanza, whose more mature and refined tone contributed much to the shape of the band’s new sound. The band’s songwriting evolved as well – while still rooted firmly in emo/pop-punk, the songs showed increased depth, sophistication and nuance when compared to the previous year’s effort.
However, this change is nothing compared to where the band has gone between that EP and their newest release. With Don’t Worry, Human After All have embraced a thoroughly post-hardcore direction entrenched wholly in the era discussed at the beginning of this review. The music declares its identity firmly and without pretense, the band’s dual guitars working in synchrony over bassist Kyle Prefontaine’s propulsive foundation. Lanza continues to hone in on his identity as a vocalist, refining his clean vocal style while also introducing a midrange scream into his toolbox. Though he deploys his scream liberally as an effective contrast, it’s nothing compared to his gorgeous singing voice, which melds the soaring agility of Anberlin’s Stephen Christian with the urgent and pointed timbre of Thrice’s Dustin Kensrue.
The majority of the songs on the record are concise and well arranged, the album’s energy faltering only on the fourth track, “Don’t Worry,” which features extended spoken-word exchanges over ambient, reverb-heavy instrumentation. Things don’t get spicy until a full minute into the song, with a therapeutically heavy chorus which unfortunately melts away as soon as it arrives to make way for a second helping of ham-fisted lyrics that, while falling well within genre norms, still hit with all the subtlety of a drunken yeti. With only six songs on the EP, there isn’t much room to be spared for the interlude that this track is trying to be. Fortunately, the remaining five songs have more than enough energy in their aggressive riffs, consistent momentum and memorable vocal hooks to keep listeners engaged, a task made easier by the album’s lush and clean production.
No one is going to accuse Human After All of breaking new ground, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The band have clearly chosen to follow a specific path, and within the scope of their mission, they’ve succeeded admirably. As a whole, Don’t Worry, It Only Gets Worse is an energetic and catchy romp through well-trodden territory that satisfyingly scratches a very particular itch for early 2000s post-hardcore fans like me.
Don’t Worry, It Only Gets Worse drops on August 25th.