Renounced - The Melancholy We Ache - LP (2014)

Labels: Carry the Weight
Review by: Emile Bojesen

Around about the time metalcore bands started getting hair extensions and This Day Forward got the Thursday singer on their “˜Kairos’ EP the genre that could loosely be described as “˜metallic hardcore’ passed away seemingly without anyone really noticing or caring. Bands that had more in common with Unbroken than Bullet for my Valentine seemed to pretty much vanish from the face of the planet. The fact that to talk about this genre you often have to designate early Cave In, early This Day Forward, early Drowningman, and so on, indicates that it was maybe just an evolutionary stage for the bands involved and maybe hardcore in general . The question is, then, why do these early records endure so much better than the “˜evolved’ records of the same bands? It’s not that the later records are all bad (although a lot of them aren’t great) it is rather that for a brief period of time metallic hardcore was able to precariously balance a few things no other style of music has been able to.

Although there are certainly examples to the contrary, I think that metallic hardcore was always defined by its attachment to a form of hopefulness that avoided being bluntly or superficially positive. This is the case both in terms of the lyrics, the music and the performances. To use one of the most obvious examples, even though the majority of Unbroken’s “˜’ almost reads like an angry suicide note, that anger is directed towards someone for whom their “˜type of love is a curtain [they] will always hide behind for the rest of [their] life.’ Another kind of love is possible and it is that love which generates the hope and energy at the heart of metallic hardcore. Equally, uplifting clean, melodic guitar intros, interludes and reprises as well as spoken word passages are all features which open this type of hardcore up to something other than hatred, anger and aggression. That isn’t to say that it can’t be hateful, angry or aggressive but rather that those emotions exist within a broader language and are accentuated in a more effect way precisely because of the genres underlying hopefulness. Yes, the songs are characteristically about the acceptance of something bad but they exist to use that negativity as a means to something better.

So, why the treatise? Why not just review Renounced’s debut LP, say it’s great and shut up? It’s certainly not because this record doesn’t hold up on its own without context, it’s because I don’t just think this record is good, I also think it’s important. “˜The Melancholy We Ache’ reintroduces a way of approaching hardcore which had pretty much been confined to the history books. There is certainly nothing wrong with lofi thrashy powerviolence and the post-punk and noise-rock directions a lot of good hardcore has taken but there is not much of it which has the same kind of hopefulness inherent to it. Commercial emo and metal have played a big part in putting people off making and appreciating the style of music Renounced play, but when done with this kind of sincerity and talent, it is far from the cringeworthy, cloying, and ultimately false emotional outpourings of those insipid genres.

As far as the record itself, while fulfilling everything unique about the genre that I have already outlined, for me it sits specifically somewhere between You and I’s “˜The Curtain Falls’ and This Day Forward’s, “˜The Transient Effects of Light on Water.’ It has the same way of switching between powerful melodies and thundering breakdowns. It is also resolutely anthemic in the way the best songs on those records are. That is to say, not through cheap, singalong choruses but rather through the relentlessly emotional character of the whole album which energetically carries the listener along. There is also much to be said for this being a record created by people who clearly know their genre inside out and yet have managed to avoid making a “˜nerdy’ record intended to please genre purists. This is a record which wears its heart on its sleeve and, as such, is probably going to split audiences dramatically. I’m pretty sure Renounced probably expected that.

Everything I think is important in this record can almost be summed up in the transition from chugging nastiness to clean melodies that accompanies the lyrics from “˜An Unpainted Canvas’ : “˜I strive to no longer keep the canvas blank. A picture says a thousand words even if it’s a thousand times you look, hold on and promise yourself it will be ok. Build walls to survive. Nothing stays forever. So paint your own canvas because it never stops hurting. Art is depression.’ It is this combination of acceptance and hope that makes metallic hardcore such an exceptional genre and what makes “˜The Melancholy We Ache’ such an exceptional record.