By Liam Menzies (@blnkclyr)
For a band so angst ridden and energetic, it’s somewhat odd to see Ohio rockers Dead Leaves show so much restraint on new album Vultures. A ten track long emo adventure, there’s a common quirk for the band to let it rip near the end only for it all to come to a quiet end: it’s almost like each track is its own entity, going through all three acts in a blink of an eye and tying it all up neatly, bow on top.
This is by no means an insult to the emo-rock outfit, if anything quite the opposite. While it may feel like the album is constantly starting and stopping, the album’s theme of powerlessness and exploitation definitely feels interlinked – on opening track Death and Taxes, we get a chess metaphor of being a pawn and from that moment on, comparisons both figuratively and literally are mixed into Vultures’ DNA.
Instrumentally, everything is very sound but the thing that will no doubt bring you back to this album time and time again is the vocals from Elliot Blair and Alex Tucker on guitar and bass respectively. Considering how close it is to the emo rock breeding grounds that are Philadelphia and New York, it’s no surprise that at certain points the band’s singing bears some resemblance to the likes of Brian Sella of The Front Bottoms, especially on the track Hopeless Dweller which evens has some similarities instrumentally.
The attraction of these vocals aren’t simply “oh they sound just like x and y”, more that they take on those traits that make these comparisons such a treat: throughout the LP there’s a sheer range from hush whispers to full on shouting and yelling, as if the band’s flannel is hanging just outside of your earphones as they chuck angry lines at you. There’s a definite Jesse Lacey influence to it at all and it culminates in a mature album that is thematically and vocally is an absolute treat.
As stated before, the performances on here all do the job and don’t under-perform at all – much like the emotions on here, the album is laden and can be at times simple much like the EP released prior but whatever the song needs these instrumentals to be, they do so. For some though, it’ll no doubt be what the album is trying to say rather than any hooks or a certain solo that listeners will recall but when you’re trying to touch on serious issues such as loss, repair or mental illness, it can be easy to want to flesh out what you’re trying to say more than anything.
As a lyrically heavy emo rock LP, it’s refreshing to have a band like Dead Leaves touch on issues that aren’t just revolving around ex girlfriends, most of which end up coming off with a sexist tinge to them. Instead, Vultures pretty much capitalises on that visual image that appears when you think of the word: vulnerability and fear. If that’s not emo rock in this day and age then what is?