In its earliest days, grunge offered an exciting way forward, combining the power of heavy metal with the speed and intensity of punk and the accessibility of pop. The combo eradicated a lot of the shortcomings of each genre, stripping down the technical pomposity and pretension of metal and prog rock, but raising the bar on punk beyond its "two chords is enough" adolescence.
This mixture is still yielding great and interesting results, as can be seen/heard on Tame The Ocean, the newest full-length from Quebec City's The Impulse.
The Impulse plays a brand of melodic hard rock that occupies the intersection between early grunge and alt. rock - think Dinosaur Jr. minus the fuzz, Husker Du, the first two Tool records - laced with some pop punk emo strychnine, carrying the sound into the 21st century.
Sometimes the band can err too far on the side of pop accessibility, however, with the band ditching some of the lo-fi warmth and grit of their debut Fill The Void allowing every detail to be heard in harsh clinical detail. Sometimes it's good, sometimes not so much.
The guitars are as kickass as ever on Tame The Ocean, raging like a motorcycle gang hopped up on speed with their twin rhythm/lead guitar attack! It's thrilling stuff, when they lock into a pummeling groove, like at the end of "Rise And Shine." The rhythm section is mighty and powerful as Saruman's battering ram, throughout the record, benefiting from the crystal clarity of the production.
The only downside, really, is the vocals, with the clean, clear production style pushing Tame The Ocean pretty far afield into emo territory. This is one instance where my critical bias is hard to overcome, as i either missed or entirely loathed what was known as pop punk in the first decade of the 21st century. While my girlfriend fondly reminisces about Taking Back Sunday or Atreyu, I have no such fond memories. When this stuff was getting popular, I was living with an annoying 18-year old emo girl while I was at the depths of my noise/metal insanity. This period of my life would also be my first introduction to the social phenomena known as "hipsters."
In short, apart from a few pivotal influential bands, I utterly hate emo, so if your music breaks down into some poppy punk harmonies and gang vocals "oohs" and "aahs" to simulate the feeling of drinking tall boys of Pabst on the porch at 2 a.m., odds are good that I'm going to hate your music.
It speaks encyclopedic volumes that I DON'T hate The Impulse. The melodic hard rock elements more than make up for the emo trappings. The instruments all sound fantastic and each member can really play! The drums slam, the guitars rage, the bass glistens like an oil-dipped Dianogah in the light of day. The Impulse should not be penalized for my personal bias. In fact, they make a good case for the music they clearly love, and I am left second-guessing myself, wondering if maybe I missed something.
That's a powerful argument to the strength of this Quebecois band. With two full-lengths in the span of a year and a half, they're clearly devoted and prolific with something distinctive to say.
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