WORDS: JOE ARNOLD
‘Hail’ is the second EP by Norfolk-based Metalcore band Homelands. Considering the fact that this release comes only six months after the band’s debut, it is surprising how different it is from its predecessor. Whereas ‘Hurt People Hurt People’ indulged in piano sections, technical lead guitar parts and the occasional melodic vocal line, ‘Hail’ is a laser-focused Melodic Hardcore album in the vein of early While She Sleeps. The band are clearly more comfortable in this sound as the songs are, on the whole, stronger than those on the previous release. However, by the end of ‘Hail’, it is difficult for the listener not to feel a sense of déjà vu.
Of the five songs on this EP, three follow a very similar style. ‘Snake’ and ‘Everything I’ll Ever Be’ both begin with big chords ringing out as the drums slowly build up to a galloping first verse, then drop the pace for heavy breakdowns overlaid with spacey lead guitar parts. ‘Liminality’ also follows an almost identical structure and is only differentiated by its intro, which features a lead guitar riff rather than single chords. All three songs are well executed and ‘Snake’ features some particularly compelling guitar work that provides a strong melodic backing that surpasses the genre’s usual atmospheric tremolo picking. However, it is hard not to wish for a bit more variation in musical styles. As a short EP it isn’t a huge problem, but Homelands will need to branch out in future as such similar songs on a longer release would quickly grow stale.
“‘Hail’ embodies a departure for the band; allowing them to successfully explore different textures without sacrificing the heaviness at the core of their sound. “
The remaining two tracks break the mold of the album with mixed success. The title track begins in a similar fashion to ‘Liminality’, but refrains from immediately exploding into a verse. Instead, the drummer drives the song forward at a much slower, more purposeful pace as another lead riff comes in over the top. Rather than returning to chugging guitars, Homelands maintain the heaviness of their sound with heavily distorted bass, intense screaming and subtle feedback. In this way, ‘Hail’ embodies a departure for the band; allowing them to successfully explore different textures without sacrificing the heaviness at the core of their sound.
Meanwhile, ‘Husk’ occupies the other end of the spectrum as an experiment that simply does not work. Here, Homelands choose to forego interesting lead guitar in favour of very standard power chords and breakdowns. The song is indeed another departure for the band, but it is created by subtracting things rather than by adding new ones and therefore feels regressive. Most bewildering of all is the band’s choice to place this – their weakest song – as the first on the EP. Such a short, basic song could perhaps have worked towards the middle of the track list, but it is neither representative of the other songs nor an interesting way to grab the listener’s attention. As such it is a poor choice for an album opener.
On ‘Hail’, it is clear than Homelands have found a sound that suits them. But it is important that the band make efforts to vary their approach more in future. This is a strong collection of songs, but when listened to in succession they can feel very similar. Overall, this feels like an album for dedicated fans of the genre. There is nothing particularly new to be found on this EP, but it is certainly a strong collection of Melodic Hardcore songs.