Volumes – Happier? (Album Review)

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Hey listener, let me quickly take you down memory lane. It’s 2010, Volumes drops their debut EP “The Concept of Dreaming”, and you discover the masterpiece “Wormholes”. The best thing about this though, is that 11 years later, you’re still obsessed with the incredibly groovy onslaught of metalcore and djent that the L.A 4-piece have perfected.

Happier?” is the fourth studio LP from Volumes, and this is absolutely their most impressive work so far. This album is a must-listen. It’s the best version of the band in terms of how they have combined their musical history into one package, as well as how they’ve pushed the envelope further, building as a band and as songwriters. It’s a massive and beautifully produced mix of monumental grooves and gorgeously expansive melodic sequences. All members of the band shine throughout the release in their own way, and it’s truly hard to choose a favorite track or moment. 11 tracks long, and 40 minutes long, “Happier?” carries you along some intelligently written tracks, but still infects your brain with some of the catchiest choruses currently in metalcore.

The vocal duo of Michael Barr and Myke Terry is in its prime on this record. The pair work off of each other’s melodies effortlessly, and the call and responses between the two are as a natural as two people in a conversation. The Volumes sound ascended to new heights when Terry joined back in 2016, and now with Barr back in the fold as of January last year, the material coming from this band is staggering. The clean vocals constantly take different shapes throughout the record, with Barr and Terry delivering silky smooth lines across tracks like “Bend” and “Get Enough”, but then punching out some impressively powerful melodies in tracks like “Void”.
Speaking of “Bend”, is it a good time to mention that it almost instantly became one of my most-loved songs in this genre? This is also coming from a dude who was initially not a fan of Volumes beginning to integrate clean vocals into their sound. This track is beautiful. The vocals are perfectly placed with a melody that hits you, right in the feels. The down-tuned guitars are pushing along with a super groovy progression that sits well under the vocals, and the mixture of the band’s performance and the ethereal synth layers just floating through the atmosphere make it feel truly magical. Volumes have created one of metalcore’s most stunning songs. Whilst I love the harsh vocals, I was constantly looking forward to the next time the pair would sing. The melodies, textures and accompanying performance from the band are the standout moments.

Still not sold on the cleans? You’ll come around eventually, but in the meantime, you won’t be disappointed by the pair’s rough vocals. Terry and Barr work just as well together as the combination of Alexandre Erian and Steve Marois from Despised Icon. Big call? I’ll stick by it. The opening track, “FBX”, shows you exactly what the pair are bringing to the table in “Happier?”. The vocals are ravenous, lashing the listener in a call and response with the rest of the band, and this is a good promise of what is to come, like “Man on Fire” which shows the vocalists, and the rest of the band for that matter, at their most wild and chaotic. Whilst “Into You (Hurts)” has another one of my preferred clean sections, the breakdown that follows reminds you that the pair, and the band, haven’t forgotten how to destabilize the core of the Earth.

There is this surgical precision about the way the music is written, and this translates through the performances of the instrumental members of the band. Raad Soudani takes care of the bass and programming side of things, whilst Nick Ursich sits behind the drumkit. There is so much articulation that there isn’t a note wasted by either member; they’re all played and created in a specific way to serve a purpose in the tracks. An example of that surgical precision is in “Lets Me Down”, a gorgeous track that is spellbinding for the most part, but a unique little sequence occurs towards the end. Those gentle little harmonic hits are perfectly placed on the kick, note for note. They’re spread across the mix, and it is an attention-grabbing moment in the album.

Ursich is a weapon on the drums, and his performance on “Happier?” is so groovy, yet so effortless in its complex performance. He’ll move from straightforward driving rhythms like the brooding verse in “Weighted” or the chorus to “Void”, but then baffle the listener with some incredible rhythms in “Malevolent”. However, regarding the tracks that sound less complex at first listen, Ursich’s ability to throw in little syncopated cymbal hits or ghost hits on the snare is insanely impressive. The fills throughout this album are where he shines. These brief but brilliant moments of personality that come through give the tracks that extra bit of colour and engagement needed to dazzle the listener further.

The guitar tones have that perfect Volumes sound as well, snaking through the tracks with an unmistakable heaviness and clarity. The atmosphere that the backing guitar layers creates is expansive, as well. Little ethereal layers or even simple plucking melodies bleed into the air around the instruments across all 11 tracks, and so it’s easy to feel like you’re being carried away by the band as bigger and more atmospheric sequences occur.

Soudani contributed so much to this album. The programming is top notch, but most importantly his bass performance is my favorite thing about this album. It’s front and centre in the mix, holding just as much weight and responsibility in carrying the melody as the guitars. With “Malevolent”, the second track off of “Happier?”, the listener is instantly hit with the guitars, but it’s so great to hear the bass play along with just as much presence. This track is an instant throwback to their early days. That classic funky slamming djent riff was something I was in love with back in my teenage years. There’s also a robotic synth effect in the background during this track, just before the massive sequence that sounds like an evil mixture of The Acacia Strain and Meshuggah. Oh, and the fill by Ursich during this sequence? For God’s sake dude, leave some talent for the rest of us.

Whilst Soudani’s bass stands proud in the mix, it’s certainly not static in this way. There are other tracks where the bass sits modestly in the background, carrying the weight of the melody. Title track “Happier?”, a perfect ender to this album, has the bass punching out the main notes in the melodic progression whilst the guitars play a super cool melody that takes the listener back to that 2010’s melodic metalcore feeling. Volumes seriously tried their hardest to make some of the most beautiful music in this genre, and with this track, they definitely succeeded.

Happier?” is one of the best metalcore albums released this year, and it’s incredibly hard to do this album justice when writing about it. I’ve skimmed over a lot and kept this short, but this is only because I really want the listener to put this album on repeat and listen to all the layers, all of the quiet little additions to the sound, and discover just how deep and expansive this album is. Volumes have put forward an LP that is a brilliant display of them at their best. The tracks are meticulously crafted to hold moments of beauty and destruction, a perfect yin and yang of breakdowns and soaring choruses. The production is so clear that the focused listener will hear every single thing contained within the music, and the performance from all members from the band is simply superb. This is a contender, and highly likely the winner for my album of the year.

Released On: November 19th2021
Released By: Fearless Records
Genre: Metalcore

Musicians:

  • Myke Terry / Vocals
  • Michael Barr /Vocals
  • Raad Soudani / Bass/Programming
  • Nick Ursich / Drums

“Happier?” Tracklist:

  1. FBX
  2. Malevolent
  3. Bend
  4. Get Enough
  5. Lets Me Down
  6. Man On Fire
  7. Weighted
  8. See You Again
  9. Into You (Hurt)
  10. Void
  11. Happier?

8.9 Excellent

This album is a must-listen. That’s as simple as it gets. Volumes have released one of the best albums in metalcore this year, and that’s for a multitude of reasons. The band’s performance, the song writing, and production are all essentially flawless, and take the listener on a journey through some incredible and diverse soundscapes. The mix of silky-smooth melodies and groovy slamming riffs is Volumes at their absolute best, and I can only recommend that the listener puts “Happier?” on repeat to fully appreciate just how extensive and layered this album is.

  • Songwriting 9
  • Musicianship 9
  • Originality 8.5
  • Production 9
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