Pridelands – Light Bends (Album Review)

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There seems to be a consensus on the internet that Australian metalcore is some of the best metalcore out there. Pridelands, the 5 piece from Melbourne, proves that this statement rings loud and true. The metal scene in Australia is absolutely brimming with artists that have so much to give to the rest of the music world. Bands such as Polaris, Alpha Wolf and Justice for the Damned, amongst others, are making huge waves, and Pridelands are quickly catching up in that regard.

After exploding onto the scene in 2018 with the EP “Any Colour You Desire”, the group demanded that heads turn their way, and turn they did. Their sound was a fresh and energetic mix of bands like Casey, Make Them Suffer and Gravemind. I remember hearing “Boys” for the first time, and immediately noticing something that was worth sticking around for as a fan. The way they integrated transcendent ethereal sounds with soul crushing rhythms and breakdowns was impressive, to say the least. In 2019, the band won the Triple J Unearthed competition to play on the main stage at UNFD Festival, and that was their opportunity to play alongside some bands of incredible fortitude and reputation, such as Trophy Eyes, Citizen and Taking Back Sunday. Is it weird that I felt like a proud dad when that opportunity arose for them? Even if it is, I still feel like that now as they release their debut album “Light Bends”, a 10-track offering that is 46 minutes of incredible modern metalcore.

First things first. For “Light Bends”, Pridelands called on George Lever of G1 Productions to mix and master. There is a reason that Lever is the talk of the town, at the moment. He has produced some of the most captivating releases recently, such as Sleep Token’s two albums, as well as Thornhill’s latest single. His mixes are expansive, blowing the ceiling off of any track to allow the sounds to breathe and bleed into the atmosphere. It sounds poetic, but as we move though “Light Bends”, you’ll understand what I mean. The guitars are dense and heavy, but undeniably clear to let the listener appreciate some rather beautiful moments through the tracks. Same goes for the drums; they’ve got more punch than Mike Tyson in his glory days, but are still so clear that nothing is drowned out by their aggression.

I would just like to remind you that this is a debut album. This is the first full length from Pridelands, a group that has charged onto the metal scene like a raging bull. The songwriting and symbiosis in the band’s performance is what you would expect from a veteran group. The tracks are infectious in their rhythms, so much so that I was quite literally bopping my head nearly the entire way through the album. I imagine that I looked like a pigeon searching for its contact lenses for precisely 46 minutes…

Joshua Cory is the clean vocalist, and Pridelands wouldn’t be what it is without him. His performance on “Light Bends” is extraordinary, an endeavor that is full of emotion and completely stunning in its delivery. He moves from velvety clean melodies all the way to some incredibly powerful choruses that could be heard across oceans. Everything he felt was translated and transferred directly to this album, and the listener will appreciate that completely.
 “I Reach Into Your Heart” is the album’s opener, a swelling and brooding track that blossoms into a huge display of the power this band possesses. Cory introduces himself to us in a silky smooth tone, and as the track builds, the grit in his voice increases until we’re shown his most powerful form. In 3 minutes, the listener understands what he has to offer.

Cory’s clean sections are simply just captivating and memorable. He possesses an incredible clean voice, and it was incredibly hard to pick a favorite moment of his. The chorus in “Parallel Lines” is definitely a candidate when he hits those high notes with grit and power, reminding me of a mid-2000’s Jared Leto from 30 Seconds To Mars. His softer clean voice has some wonderful appearances, as well. “Transcendent Blue” is a highlight, and “Safer Here” holds some fragile melodies from him also, at one point reminding me of the delicate voice of Jónsi Birgisson from Sigur Ros.

The following track “Parted Time”, most likely my highlight on the album, has a perfect exhibition of Cory’s vocal abilities. The whole track is just gorgeous, and his vocals give it a sense of magic and wonder. The layered entry into this track is just delightful, really, and builds in the way that you’d want it to, so it’s even more satisfying when it blooms into the beautifully heavy melodic track that it is.

Mason Bunt handles the rough side of the vocals, and he handles them with such ferocity, I was sure he left a piece of himself in the studio after recording. With those chaotic screams, it’s immediately clear that he put so much effort and emotion into his performance. “The Walls” was the final single released before the full album, and what a final teaser it was. It’s a super groovy track, and Bunt’s vocals are beyond intense on this one, especially when he lashes the listener with the words “make it stop”. In “Parted Time”, he screams lines like “wipe the smile from your face, before I rip it off” and the listener immediately realizes that there is no such thing as holding back for Bunt. This is the kind of extreme force and havoc the listener is privy to across the whole album, and during this time, he almost never relents.

The guitars on this album hold just as much power as the vocals. They land on the listener with so much weight, but they’re versatile enough that in the softer sections they just float across the sonic sphere, adding to the brooding ambience. Liam Fowler has laid down some bloody good tracks for “Light Bends” and thankfully the distortion on the guitars is set to a point where the listener is slammed with some brutal rhythms, but the melodies and unique chord progressions stand out with superb clarity. The personality of the melodies change from track to track, and it will definitely keep the listener engaged from start to finish, ready for another full play through. Tracks like “Parallel Lines” are full of big nu metal chugs that carry a solid melody (the backing guitar melody in the background of this track is incredibly sinister when you’ve got headphones on, too), whereas offerings like “Safer Here” contain some glimmering melodies that float around in your mind.

I would have loved to hear some more bass presence from Daniel Lohrey, the bassist for Pridelands. At times you can hear his performance come through, especially in the final track “The Sun Will Find Us”, and if you focus you can hear him playing some seriously impressive stuff on the bass, but for the majority of the album his contribution comes in the form of adding weight to the overall mix. This isn’t so much a criticism of the mix, just a wish to be able to appreciate the efforts of all members in the album.

One thing I truly love about Lever’s mixes, is how the drums are presented to the listener. Throughout “Light Bends”, the drums shift from standing at the forefront of the mix, hitting you with some pummeling rhythms, then pulling back to allow the melodic instruments to really put forward some stirring moments. In “Antipathy”, the animosity from the drums, and the rest of the band to be fair, is put in the face into the listener. The final sequence drops in tempo ever so slightly so it hits even harder, and the snare drum goes off like a gun shot.

Joe Lipsham’s contribution as drummer to this album is something that makes it easy to come back to for multiple listens. There is a tonne of versatility in his performance, and you can really appreciate the personality he injects into the tracks. “Heavy Tongue” has a handful of sweet little fills and variations through the main hook which make it even more fun to listen to. The mechanical effect added to the snare hit in “The Lake of Twisted Limbs” totally transforms the track for a moment, shifting the atmosphere and creating this unique variance on the “Light Bends” sound. It aids in keeping the tracks fresh and the listener’s interest will definitely be piqued by this.

One of my favorite things about the drums is during “Evergrowth” the second-last track on the album. The atmosphere created in this track is quite gorgeous, and it really opens up at the end as the drums come in. The drums are spread far and wide across the mix, and it’s damn satisfying to hear that. Drum’s don’t always have to stay in the same spot in the mix, and when they’re appreciated as an instrument that’s just as malleable as anything else, they procure an ability to become even more versatile and dynamic, traveling around the soundscape to create a new listening experience.

Ultimately, Pridelands have created something of real substance with “Light Bends”. For a debut album, it’s absolutely remarkable, and is a huge warning shot to the world that this band isn’t one to overlook. The performance of each member is a dominating display of confidence and competence, yet no member is fighting another for space in the spotlight. There is a sense of solidarity and that’s shown in a number of ways, whether it be between the two vocalists, or between the drums and guitars. Everything fits, and as a result, I was left feeling complete after numerous listens. If this is just their debut album, there is no telling what Pridelands are capable of as their hone their craft and develop themselves as a group.

Released On: January 14th2022
Released By: Sharp Tone Records
Genre: Metalcore

Musicians:

  • Joshua Cory / Clean Vocals
  • Mason Bunt / Harsh Vocals
  • Liam Fowler / Guitar
  • Daniel Lohrey / Bass
  • Joe Lipsham / Drums

“Light Bends” Track-list:

  1. I Reach Into Your Heart
  2. The Walls
  3. Parallel Lines
  4. Parted Time
  5. The Lake of Twisted Limbs
  6. Safer Here
  7. Heavy Tongue
  8. Antipathy
  9. Translucent Blues
  10. Evergrowth
  11. The Sun Will Find Us

7.8 Great

“Light Bends” is an indomitable statement from Pridelands, a declaration that they are a force of incredible magnitude. The 11-track debut album is staggering in its high-energy delivery of solid riffs, spellbinding melodies and crushing breakdowns. Each member has contributed something of real substance to the record, and it really is striking that this is their first full-length release. The songwriting maturity within the group is an invaluable tool that places them on the list of bands to keep an eye on. Pridelands is going places, and you’d be crazy not to come with them.

  • Songwriting 7.5
  • Musicianship 8
  • Originality 7.5
  • Production 8
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