The past few years have yielded a surprising, but fantastic resurrection of the screamo and post-hardcore genres. Influenced by the likes of Saetia, Small Brown Bike, Hot Cross, and Pg. 99, bands like La Dispute, Envy, We Were Skeletons and The Saddest Landscape have made a huge splash in the scene, signaling the start of what some refer to as a new wave in a genre left dormant for years. Desolate Peaks, the debut album from Santa Rosa, California’s State Faults, is a welcome addition to this growing and diverse group of bands.
Released by the young and up-and-coming DIY label, Tiny Engines, Desolate Peaks is a brilliant exercise in brash instrumentation, juxtaposed with exhausting emotional narratives. The album begins with “Sleepwalker,” a short and slow-building ballad of post-rock tendencies, which serves as an introduction to the lyrical themes of loneliness, self-realization and departure present throughout the extent of the album. In “Cities,” the aggression of Johnny Andrew’s grating and commanding voice sets in, carefully flowing through images of failing cities, ghosts and snow.
“Shiver,” the nearly two minute instrumental interlude follows with ambient swells and pulsing drums before bursting into “Faultlines,” an equally brief, but exceptionally more jarring wall of distortion and melodic guitar leads. The remaining half of Desolate Peaks is where State Faults comes into their own, showing that they’re at their best in their most extreme states; the quiet beginnings of “Hallways” and the explosiveness of “Wayfarer” show the group’s proficiency in crafting powerful songs no matter what the timbre of its dynamics resemble.
Put simply, Desolate Peaks is an album that positions State Faults shoulder to shoulder with the heavy hitters of this decade’s crop of screamo and post hardcore bands. If compared to another group in the genre, their closest relative would be Pianos Become The Teeth. Possessing the same dramatic and at times minimalistic force, State Faults’ vocals are powerful and at times work in an ambient way, participating in the music as an equal and complimenting sound, rather than coming to the forefront.
Unlike Pianos Become The Teeth, Andrew’s screams do not remain comprehensible throughout the duration of the record. For this reason, the album’s listening experience vastly improves with a lyric sheet. While the vocals have a tendency of coming off as abrasive and grating – much more coarse than is generally found in the genre’s current landscape – it’s the passion behind Andrew’s voice that makes the album such a memorable and emotional listen. This of course makes for a double-edged sword, as Desolate Peaks is an album most unfamiliar with the genre will have a difficult time digesting.
Sound Quality: While listening to the digital version of the album, I couldn’t help but feel underwhelmed by the production quality of the songs. By the time I got the vinyl record on my turntable, my impressions greatly improved for not only the sound quality, but of the music itself. The high-pitched vocals and dissonant guitar parts opened up and became much more listenable.
Packaging: Although the album is packaged in no more than a single pocket jacket, Tiny Engines did a great job making a tired packaging method unique by letter-pressing the band’s name and album title to the front of the jacket. Also included was a eight or nine-inch double sided insert with the album’s lyrics.
Extras: A digital download card is included, as well as an immediate download when purchased directly from Tiny Engines. No CD is included.
Summary: What Desolate Peaks lacks in accessibility, it makes up for in an aggression and a chaotic prowess unseen in today’s scene. State Faults will be a band to watch as they further develop in future releases.
Make Sure To Spin: “Hallways,” “Wayfarer” and “Sleepwalker”
The record is still available over at Tiny Engines.