Melodic Hardcore band Withered Bones has no shortage of emotion on their 2017 release “In Search of Self-Evidence.” This follow-up to the Phoenix, Arizona band’s 2015 album, “For the Ones I Love” is filled to the brim with raw screams, heavy guitars and pounding drums, while still maintaining a melodic and musical feel.
The intro track, “Suffer”, caught me by surprise. I suddenly thought I was listening to a post-rock album. The track is a perfect introduction, as the emotion is evident from the first note. You can really feel something as the intro builds, and it does a great job of catching your attention, and making sure you’re paying attention as it segways into “A Vice’s Grip”.
The most obvious trait of this track was instantly the quality of the vocal performance. Russel Ullrich left nothing at the door. The emotion is immediately apparent, and I felt myself drawn in, wanting to know what this guy cared so much about. The vocal performance is also supported by equally polished vocal production. From recording to mix and master, the vocal was made to cut through clearly, and it sounds great. The performances keep up the emotion throughout the album, and “Unmatched” is no exception. This song did a good job of flowing naturally from thoughtful and melodic, to heavy and head-banging and back again. A lot of the songs felt somewhat familiar in terms of chord progressions and melodies, but especially in “Unmatched” it’s hard to pinpoint whether that is because it’s been done before, or if it just feels right.
One peeve I have with this genre is that the vocal style, while being raw and emotional, can become quite monotonous and somewhat grating. Withered Bones does a good job of preventing this from happening though. “Evansville” brings a welcome break with its change-up of vocal style. I think one of the main areas this band manages to break the mold and sound unique is in the style of the lead guitars, and this fourth track is a great example of just that, as is track five, “Hole in the Guardrail.” It really captured my attention and wouldn’t let go. The chorus in particular was hard to get enough of, and I went back and re-listened to this song a few extra times because of it.
“Indoctrinated” and “Meaningless Influence” keep up the trend of breaking up the vocal styles. The lyric writing is on point, and the music carries the message’s emotion as much as the vocals do. Here I must make my first real negative comment though. The lead guitars in the bridge of “Meaningless Influence” led me to expect a solo, and I was heavily disappointed when there was none. It did seem to detract from the song. The same thing happens in track 8, “A Hope Worth Losing”, but to a much worse extent. The guitars sounded like they wanted to go into a huge, soaring solo, but the vocals just didn’t let up and give them room to do so. If it wasn’t for this, this would be my favourite track on the album, hands down.
“Expect to Disconnect” and “Poison” lead up to the final two songs of the album. The first was unremarkable until the breakdown, but the change of vocals was, once again, a good choice. In my opinion, interludes in albums like this are essential. “Poison” fills that role nicely. It breaks things down to a calmer level, allowing you time to recover a bit before the last two songs.
The whole of the song “Rotten Thoughts” seems to have a feel of closing to it. It rounds out the album nicely, and makes you feel like you’ve just listened to one cohesive work. The vocal clash in the outro was a nice touch, which leads us to the final and title track, “In Search of Self-Evidence.” A strong end to the album, track 12 is on the more aggressive side, particularly in the vocal delivery. It was a good way to drive home the point.
Overall, this album was solid. It was hardly ground-breaking, but it didn’t exactly just fit the mold either. The production was quite good; strong points being the guitar and vocal tones. The cymbals were a little over bright, and the hi-hat was distractingly loud at times, but not too much to be able to adjust to. The arrangements of the guitar parts was a big highlight for me. They played into and over each other in a very enjoyable and well thought out manner. If the album has one main fault, it’s related to the lack of guitar solos. There were multiple parts that could easily have used one, and arguably a few sections that really needed them, and suffered from the lack. In general, while the vocals were good, they just didn’t let up. Instrumental sections to let the guitars just breathe and do their thing can be just as effective and emotion-filled as a good vocal performance, and would have gone a long way in making “In Search of Self-Evidence” really shine. As it is though, the album is quite enjoyable and is something I would listen to again.
Written by Jesse Dean
1. Suffer 0:45
2. A Vice’s Grip 2:08
3. Unmatched 3:01
4. Evansville 2:37
5. Hole in the Guardrail 3:00
6. Indoctrinated 2:55
7. Meaningless Influence 3:16
8. A Hope Worth Losing 3:47
9. Expect to Disconnect 2:40
10. Poison 0:43
11. Rotten Thoughts 2:45
12. In Search of Self-Evidence 3:42
Peter Caswell – Bass/Vocals
Russell Ullrich – Vocals
Benji Llanes – Guitar
Ben Smith – Guitar
Garrett Heckman – Drums
“For the Ones I Love” (2015)
“In Search of Self-Evidence” (2017)
Record Label: Blood & Ink Records, December 2017
Video for ‘Rotten Thoughts’