This could very well be Have Mercy’s last album. It’s a shock that even this ended up seeing the light of day, really, given how 2016 saw three of the four members leaving, with the name now essentially being a stage name for vocalist / guitarist Brian Swindle. Now flanked by a new team of producers and musicians, Make The Best Of It couldn’t be a more fitting name for this album, Have Mercy’s third full-length riding on the current strength of emo to, at the very least, leave a legacy worth remembering.
Thankfully, Swindle certainly has made the best of it, and then some. In what is already a banner year for emo as it is, Have Mercy have managed to create another stellar album for list, all while standing on the knife-edge of existence itself. And really, this is an album that does everything it does exclusively through the basics; it’s not as exposed as Sorority Noise or deeply introspective as A Will Away, focusing on a particularly messy aftermath of a relationship, but doing so with a sense of conflict and frustration that’s impossible to fake. Almost all of this is a case of this album’s weight and atmosphere, and how Swindle’s near-masterful control of both yields the maximum output. His slightly nasal vocals aren’t really ideal for this sort of thing, but when he lets out his tense, impassioned growl, there’s the sort of heavy, heady swell of emotion that belies this album perfectly. There’s palpable grief on Coexist and American Bliss where Swindle’s breakup sees him becoming more and more wracked, while Reaper plays out the same revenge fantasy as Brand New’s Seventy Times 7, cutting the brakes of her new partner’s car as he drives away. The fact that such a clearly-defined comparison can be made shows the Swindle is bouncing off his influences pretty hard here, but it never dampens the emotional interplay, particularly on Reaper where his primal desires override any rational thought, and it makes for a startlingly open moment.
A similar effect is achieved through the instrumentation, the sort of rich, earthy emo that’s underpinned by shades of darkness that make it sound even thicker and more dense. Baby Grand and Good Christian Man have the sort of strained rumble that Thrice did phenomenally on their last album, and the intense melancholy on Drive and Ghost is conveyed through their buried swathes of washed-out guitars. Even when the pace slightly picks up on Begging For Bones with its choppier guitar line that really is far removed from anything else on the album, the remarkable flow it develops all the way through keeps the whole thing grounded as a cohesive body of work, both sonically and thematically. And with the rough production style that lets every chord linger, Make The Best Of It manages to resonate in exactly the way that was intended.
Ultimately, if this album does prove to be Have Mercy’s swansong release, it’s hard to see a better note to go out on. The light and shade collide masterfully in an album that manages to be both unflinchingly personal and relatable, with Swindle’s pained, almost uncomfortable purging serving as the ideal narration. The fact that it’s as lowkey as it is means it probably won’t get the attention it deserves – the buildup to this album has been virtually nonexistent, with Have Mercy being a cult act not helping much – but even among the waves of incredibly strong emo releases that have dropped in the past few months alone, Make The Best Of It still manages to shine out.
For fans of: Real Friends, The Dangerous Summer, Boston Manor
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Make The Best Of It’ by Have Mercy is out now on Hopeless Records.