Despite being pulled on by the powerfully irresistible artistic forces of both coasts, the heartland of America remains staunchly attached to the values which built the foundation of American popular music. Not given to wild swings of fancy, the Midwest maintains a strong connection to the blues roots which have shouldered the careers of rock and roll, metal, grunge, rap, country and damn near everything else. From within that established legacy comes Seasons After, a Wichita-based alternative metal band that experiments openly with some farther out ideas, but remains smartly ensconced in the tried and true recitations of accessible verse and chorus that so characterize the salt-of-the-earth values of their heritage.
The strength of Seasons After lies in their ambition. The ability to seamlessly combine elements of late 90s alternative with the chug of nu-metal and some Slipknot-style garnishes is difficult to harness, but the band vacillates with equal accomplishment in all three of those phases. Naturally, “Calamity Scars & Memoirs” is at its best when the band can do all three of those concurrently, as we hear on the signature track “Break to Survive.” The power of the song’s construction is harnessed by the catchy clean vocals of singer Tony Housh, who time and again on the duration of the record keeps things on track.
One of the most engrossing parts of this record is the trips down memory lane that the music’s structure forces on the listener. Both “Lights Out” and “So Long Goodbye” remind one of the alternative compositions of yesteryear, making “Calamity Scars & Memoirs” a throwback album with modern twists. It’s hard to resist the bolted-down framework of verse-chorus-verse-solo-chorus, the pattern being so ingrained in the blueprint of music during my formative years.
Speaking of the blueprint, there’s nothing on this album’s better moments that feels out of place, which is much to its credit. The solos of James Beattie may not blow the roof off with the technical expertise that metal ‘purists’ demand, but they’re tight and more importantly sound correct within the context of each song. His playing is smooth and crisp as he decorates the corners of “One More Step.” To cap onto that idea, that same song incorporates an entirely different vocal cadence that is unique on the record, and yet it is incorporated in such a way as to be more than a novelty. Indeed, “One More Step” may well be the album’s strongest track and the strongest example of the creativity of Seasons After.
Where Seasons After starts to lose ground is in deviating from their best formula, straying too far from the plan to maintain the grit and sense of consequence that much of the record establishes. The back half is dotted by out of place anthems, including the borderline melodrama of “Weathered and Worn,” a sort of boilerplate alternative sing-along. In the face of what the album does well, it’s disappointing to see Seasons After include a number of tracks that so stubbornly leaves behind their musical identity. Even “This Life” is a track that shows some promise, but only ends up halfway there, getting distracted by the bug-zapping light of easy drama.
“Calamity Scars & Memoirs” doesn’t necessarily trade on all of its capital, but it does utilize a lot of it to deliver a unique experience. While listeners may find themselves hitting the ‘next track’ button more than a couple times, there’s enough unique sounds here to capture attention and keep people listening. It’s not perfect, but Seasons After has put together a worthwhile experience.