There’s a point to boiling things down to the absolute basics, especially in a genre like emotional hardcore. As a genre characterised by what’s being said and the intensity which which it’s being said, the inclusion of superfluous bells and whistles can often seem pointless if everything else isn’t up to scratch. On the other side of the coin, though, there’s a real danger of merely falling in line if there isn’t at least a bit of effort to differentiate from the pack. In terms of Portsmouth’s Acres on their new EP In Sickness & Health, it’s a difficult balance to strike, and while they do put in a conscious effort to meet both criteria and still stand out, the final product ultimately struggles to do that.
It’s not really a problem in terms of instrumentation though, as for a band who list Pianos Become The Teeth, Architects, Paramore and Hans Zimmer amongst their influences, it’s surprisingly easy to see where all those pieces fit together. There’s some great heft here, especially in the roaring, metallic guitars of opener Overseer, and while the poppier elements are harder to pinpoint on their own, they combine with some of the more cinematic leanings for some fantastic presence, like the cushion of strings and gang vocals on Gloom, or the title track’s windswept solos. The melodic foundation of this EP is fantastic, and has the potential for something really quite potent.
That is, if Acres had anything even remotely interesting to say. It’s hard to deny that Ben Lumber packs an incredible amount of range and intensity in his screams, but the lyrical focus of the dissolution of a relationship is so generalised that it just doesn’t feel worth it. When Casey went down a similar route on last year’s Love Is Not Enough, that album worked in how searingly honest and unflinching it was; the way that Acres approach it has none of that spark, instead relying on easy-to-imprint lines like “What have we become? / Will we always be this way?” or “Promise you’ll stay / These are the things that I wish I could say” to convey a similar effect. The problem is it’s so unspecific that it’s hard to form a solid emotional response. And when there are tracks like Miles Apart (both the regular version and the deconstructed, even less defined version) that drag anyway, it’s an EP that struggles to grip the attention below a very surface level.
That’s not to say that Acres don’t have potential, as a clear understanding of instrumental depth and texture is reason enough to at least give In Sickness & Health a listen or two. Getting that right at this early stage bodes well for more long-running projects in the future, but the minute, Acres don’t have a lot beyond that to hit that spot of true resonance that the best melodic hardcore does. The basics are there; building something more interesting from them needs to be next on the itinerary.
For fans of: Being As An Ocean, We Never Learned To Live, Casey
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘In Sickness & Health’ by Acres is released on 24th February.