Kane Power (@ElHeavio)
Blacklisted are a band that divide opinion. A definable growth over 13 hard-fought years and a drastic style shift in 2009 have made it difficult for the band to retain a large portion of their segmented fan base. The first iteration of their sound, characterised by fast and raw hardcore punk, recently evolved towards post-hardcore, heavily leaning on grunge, perplexing and alienating a large portion of their long-time fans; a sentiment reflected in their aptly named new album When People Grow, People Go.
First track ‘Insularized’ picks up where they left off with previous album No One Deserves To Be Here More Than Me. Taking its time with a slower, grunge-influenced sound, I admit that my heart dropped along with my hopes for a return to the glory days of …The Beat Goes On. No One Deserves… just didn’t do anything for me. It felt awkward in comparison to their earlier work and left fans such as myself waiting with bated breath for the band to re-emerge with something rooted in hardcore.
Graciously, my feeling were spared when ‘Turn The Pike’ kicks in; a breakneck ninety seconds of grating guitars and syncopated drum fills reminiscent of their acclaimed early EP We’re Unstoppable. Songs ‘like ‘Riptide’ and the incredible ‘Burnt Palms’ are where Blacklisted shine; raw, emotionally charged, pointed aggression, perfectly suited to George Hirsch’s shredded vocal. The most intentional track, ‘Deeper Kind’, is a skilled blend between the old and new, with a more melodic chorus that reminds me of Wisdom In Chains.
When People Grow, People Go rides a fine line between the convincing, intimidating hardcore of their early years, and the slightly uncomfortable band they became in 2009, seeming to interchange song by song. Musically it’s enjoyable with familiar, chaotic guitar riffing and a lackadaisical efficiency to the drums. The stronger songs are an exciting blend of their early roots and new experimentation. The weaker moments are almost entirely a consequence of the vocal.
Hirsch has an atonal approach that works in small doses but fails when in focus. The slower, more experimental sound they have adopted to provide this focus exposes repetitive semi-tone slurs and off key notes as a weakness rather than a purposeful tool. He is naturally a very expressive and melodic vocalist, but far more suited to frantic, straight-up hardcore, which is much more forgiving of his melodic faults. It seems with When People Grow, People Go, Blacklisted have begun to turn back to hardcore before they’ve gone too far down a road with a vocalist who isn’t a singer.
Although not quite back to their best, When People Grow, People Go is a vast improvement on their last record. Growth as individuals and as a band is inevitable, and experimentation should be encouraged, it’s just that Blacklisted are much better as a hardcore band. They are back on the right path and from the relative strength of this album I hope Blacklisted can persevere to reach the heights they are capable of.