Comrades – Safekeeper

Occasionally you find that one album that pierces through your listening comfort zone, making you question what you’ve been missing outside of the genres your ears tend to call home. For me that album is Comrades latest offering ‘Safekeeper’, released May 6th through Blood and Ink Records. ‘Safekeeper’ is a bright burst of clashing musical influence and styles that only an elite few have been able to bring together in such a beautifully focused effort as Comrades have.

I suppose to best summarize Comrades sound it would be best to break it down as if it were a recipe. Comrades start off with a nice thick post-rock base that will function to hold all the ingredients together. They’ve seasoned that base enough to give it a far more aggressive mainstream appeal, retaining post-rock presence but stripping it of all it’s drone and monotonous qualities. From there they add in some of the better elements of post-hardcore, you know, the catchy guitar hooks and not too overly harsh male vocals. With a really good recipe brewing so far, the band adds their final two signature ingredients; sensual female vocals that soothe the ears amidst all of the intensity and finally just a dash of prog-metal guitar noodling that just makes so much damn sense in the grand scheme of things that is ‘Safekeepers’.

“Endless” welcomes us with the vocal stylings of band member Laura amidst what is perceived to be mood-setting piano. That mood quickly goes to the way side as the track swiftly evolves with a post-hardcore presence. This wicked opening track encompasses everything Comrades is about: Vocal harmonizing, guitar noodling, harsh vocals and a strong build up followed by heavy wall of sound.’Roving’ offers stronger ties to the post-rock world as a heavy instrumental number, falling somewhere between the lines of Russian Circles and This Patch of Sky. “The Compass” returns to softer female vocals and darker-toned guitar driven melodies. This track is highlighted with a gang vocal finale that works well as the next track, “Pax” is a short departure that resets the ears palate.

“Calling Down Fire (To Keep Warm)” is a short yet rambunctious number that packs a strong punch, intertwining prog-metal noodling with what I perceive to be palm mutes, but I could be wrong. This is one of the more technically impressive efforts on the album and shouldn’t be overlooked for it’s short length. “Orphan Hymn” features another impressive meshing of softer female vocals with harsher post-hardcore vocals throughout the course of a progressively building track. Another short interlude with “Haven” helps set the table for “Severance”, a song spearheaded by dominant guitar work that creates a strong post-rock vibe. The album comes to a close with “The End of This Story and the Beginning of All the Others” which is the only track on the album to utilize samples. I really love the overtones and messages within the samples. It seems as though this is exactly what the album has been building to through the lyrics of previous songs as well as other track names (see: “Roving, The Compass, Haven). A strong finish to one of the best albums I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing this year.

My biggest issue with ‘Safekeeper is that it’s just too damn short! At nine tracks totaling just over 33 minutes, I sure do wish this album was about 12-20 minutes longer. Of course with this album being pretty close to masterpiece status, I would never question the amount of time or dedication the band put into ‘Safekeepers’. This album is especially impressive when you do some digging and listen to the band’s previous material. The first sore thumb that sticks out of the production values of their material on ReverbNation is nowhere near the quality found on ‘Safekeepers’, it’s literally night and day. The second thing you’ll likely realize is that the band completely revamped their sound for this album. Like I said earlier, this album is incredibly well focused. With such an enormous personality and presence, it goes without saying that this is a rock-solid foundation for the three piece to launch from. Make no mistake about it, this is an album that has cemented it’s place on my year end lists for sure.

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tags: comrades punk independent music instrumental rock post-rock Richmond