Comrades is a band that happens to be criminally underrated, yet doesn't allow that to stop them from going all-out to craft some of the most well-designed music out there today. I had the pleasure of learning of them through a live show when they toured as a supporting act for Phinehas during their 2015 release tour for Till the End, and I was absolutely impressed by the way that their live performance sounded so huge and artistic despite being just three people. With the announcement of the band signing to Facedown Records, and the announcement of a new album dropping this year, I figured this was a good time to back and review one of my favorite albums ever.
To start things off, one thing that has to be said is that this album's strongest point is the guitar work. Joe McElroy's riffs and composition have this incredibly creative, classical aesthetic to them, and his guitar tone throughout the album is beautifully amazing. He makes use of multiple layers of different sounds, bringing them together to create what I'd call a "fence of sound", rather than a full wall, which is good because otherwise, the guitars would overpower/wash out the other instrumentation which is exceptionally good as well.
This album flows really well, emotionally. The beginning of the album gives us a calmer base with a nice progressive piece, Endless. The song starts soft, builds the tension and grows harsher, then releases the emotion for the final moments with a really amazing feel of beautiful clean guitars that just strike a nerve within to give an indescribable feeling to the listener. It's immediately followed by an instrumental-only song called Roving which features some really nice moments for Joe to show off his proficiency in writing some of the most intelligent, artistic guitar work I've heard. We also get to hear some nice drum experimentation in the background during the guitar work, and the bass guitar is mixed in a way so that it's audible and adds to the song but without overpowering anything.
The album goes from emotion to emotion, giving the listener only small breaks in the form of two short, primarily ambient tracks with some nice guitar work laid over top of it. Songs such as Calling Down Fire (To Keep Warm) see the guitar work go to another level of layering and artistic creativity. The lines feel classically-inspired in many ways, and build up over the course of the (short) song, then release in a blast of sheer talent at the end.
Perhaps the most unique piece on this album would be my favorite track by these guys: Orphan Hymn. It's a beautiful song talking about the heart's longing for something more than this world, and features the clean singing of bassist Laura McElroy, as well as some screamed vocals from drummer Ben Trussell. The contrast between the more angelic singing style of Laura and the hardcore in-your-face screams of Trussell creates a sort of dialogue between what is presumably God and the humans who are searching for Him. It's a progressive piece that includes beauty, a touch of brutality, and a really creative approach to the writing throughout. If I could only recommend one song to check out from this album, it would be Orphan Hymn.
The album is rounded out by two back-to-back gems, Severance and The End of This Story and the Beginning of All the Others. The former is purely instrumental and has an overall dramatic aesthetic to it, building an atmosphere of light tension and preparing the listener for the finale of the album. The latter, however, begins with droning atmosphere and a bit of spoken word vocals, taking the listener by surprise by building up heavier tension than Severance just when the listener may have thought things would be calm. The tension in the final track continues to build, leading to anticipation of what they're going to do next in the song. The first time I heard this song, I was genuinely taken by surprise each time they added in a new layer. Over half-way through the song, the tension simply stops building and goes into a beautiful little break from the overall sound, adding more atmospheric guitar work to the mix. Then they take you by surprise once more by releasing all the tension they built up during Severance and the beginning of this song, giving the listener a bittersweet feeling of relief and of sadness that it's over.
The album is a work of art, a rather unknown masterpiece that -- like the band themselves -- is criminally underrated. It is, and always will be one of my all-time favorite albums, particularly in the post-rock/post-metal scenes because it was, quite frankly, my first post-rock album ever. The only complaint I have is that it isn't longer, because I genuinely did not want it to end. You will be doing yourself a massive disservice if you pass this album up.