ARTIST: HIGHER POWER
TITLE: 27 MILES UNDERWATER
LABEL: ROADRUNNER RECORDS
JOURNALIST: TIM BIRKBECK | PHOTOS: NAT WOOD
When a band has to follow a critically acclaimed debut record, which is not only adored by fans but also their peers, it can weigh heavy expectations on a band.
Following the release of 2017’s Soul Structure, Leeds based quintet Higher Power stamped their mark on the hardcore / punk landscape on both sides of the Atlantic with their groove laced brand of hardcore.
So, when it came to releasing a new record to top the success of their debut full-length there was a certain level of expectation from fans and an added level of pressure with the their second offering 27 Miles Underwater being released on legendary label Roadrunner Records.
“Higher Power have stamped their mark on the hardcore / punk landscape on both sides of the Atlantic.”
In the last couple of years Roadrunner has helped sky rocket bands like Turnstile and Angel Du$t out of the hardcore underground and into the wider alternative music community, and it seems like in 2020 it will be the year that Higher Power are shot to the stars.
With lead single and opening track of the record ‘Seamless’ indicating right off the bat a slight change in direction for the band. The song still features the groovy and crunchy riffs that people have come to expect from Higher Power, but the biggest change is the five-piece is that there is a focus more on the idea of writing in a verse, chorus formula, which allows vocalist Jimmy Wizard to really spread his wings.
There is still the familiar yelping vocals which became a staple of Soul Structure, but in this song and throughout the record Wizard is really testing his range and at points even becoming more melodic than he has previously shown.
Even though still heavily influenced and embedded in the punk scene, Higher Power allow other influences to shine through in this record, with clear nods to bands like Deftones, Circa Survive, Snapcase and Crime in Stereo coming out in songs like ‘Lost in Static’ where even though the distorted guitars and a pummelling snare drum ring true, there is almost a pop sensibility to the song, where it has you bopping along to a quite sombre sounding chorus.
‘Lost in Static’ starts of a string of tracks which displays Higher Power’s strengths front and centre, with ‘Rewire (101)’ again offering up a more upbeat tone to it from what we are usually be used to from the band, and again with a hook which will inevitably get stuck in your head. This trio of songs is completed by the bands second single ‘Low Season’ which kicks in with a really dirty sounding guitar riff, before Wizard’s almost spacious vocals come to the forefront.
“It isn’t necessarily the anger fuelled record that some may associate with a hardcore band.”
When people think of the world of hardcore imagery of mosh pits and stage divers instantly come to mind and you would be correct in thinking that. However, with 27 Years Underwater, Higher Power have somehow managed to transcend that and have almost brought a level of maturity to the genre, but without stepping too far away from its DIY and collective origins.
It isn’t necessarily the anger fuelled record that some may associate with a hardcore band, actually quite the opposite this is a fun record to listen to, but to dismiss this as a hardcore record would be a mistake.
Songs like ‘Passenger’ and ‘King of My Domain’ both have the bounce and drive that could incite a mosh pit at any moment, but that makes them stand out is the tenderness which is displayed through Wizard’s lyrics which come across as very personal and heartfelt in places and that they come from a place of hurt and self reflection.
And speaking of tenderness the band even through in a acoustic interlude in the shape of ‘In The Meantime’ which really demonstrates the growth the band has had since their first full-length.
Having toured relentlessly in both the UK and the US with some of the hardcore world’s heavy hitters, it seems these lived experiences have rubbed off on to Higher Power and impacted the way they approach their writing.
For all the positives that Soul Structure had, 27 Years Underwater feels like a more coherent and and put together record right from ‘Seamless’ all the way through to ‘Drag The Line’
In a genre which at times is heavily dominated by beatdowns and cool mosh parts, Higher Power have stepped out of the comfort zone and are asking their listener to think a bit more about what is being put into the music. If this is the sound of British hardcore in 2020 then it is very welcome to stay.
27 Miles Underwater Is Out January 24th via Roadrunner Records. You can pre-order the record HERE.