As much as emotion is imperative in making music with power and resonance, it can be difficult to use it in the right way. As much as heaving intensity is a favoured route, its effects create a narrow bell curve – have too little and it seems disingenuous and lazy; have too much and it seems disingenuous and cloying. The album that’s probably come the closest to getting the optimum amount in recent memory is Casey’s Love Is Not Enough, one that only continues to rise in stock thanks to being grounded in turbulent realism with an execution that pulls it off. Compare it to Create To Inspire’s 2016 EP Home Is Where My Heart Dies and various parallels begin to crop up, with both having foundations in rich, lush melody, and the overriding grief being palpable throughout. With that EP though, its more confined boundaries allowed the band to get more from it than their melodic hardcore sound usually allows, and going into debut full-length Sickness, the biggest worry comes with Create To Inspire succumbing to their genre’s limitations and losing the punch they had.
And unfortunately, that’s the case here, though it’s less of a deal breaker and more of an indication that Create To Inspire need to tinker with their formula to yield more effective results. It mainly a case of a slightly unconvincing synthesis between lyrics and delivery; the narrator undergoes a devastating loss of a loved one, leading to him withdrawing into himself on Recluse and giving in to various mental issues throughout the course of the album. But for such an acute, anguished narrative, Create To Inspire choose to play it curiously restrained, opting for big, radio-friendly choruses and screams that could definitely have more of an instinctive rawness. That’s not saying that there’s no emotion to be felt – particularly towards the end on tracks like Blue, that searing pain does materialise – but where the band are given more room to fully let loose, they choose not to use it. As a result, Sickness falls into an awkward middle ground between two desirable outcomes; it’s clearly told from the centre of the issue but doesn’t convincingly convey that maelstrom of emotions, yet it’s not distanced enough from any sort of response to show the full erosion of any feeling. This is an easier sell on an EP, but stretched across a full album, any pathos is drastically cut down and walls off the upper limits of effectiveness that should’ve been fair game, not to mention that the whole thing does feel slightly toned down.
And that’s a shame too, as pretty much in every other area, Create To Inspire are primed to do something great with this album, save for a few extraneously slick layers of production that can be shaved off from the plucky guitar line of Loss or the syrupy instrumental interlude Outlet. There’s an impressive fluidity to these tracks and how the transition between meatier post-hardcore riffing and quieter, more airy instrumentals never feels forced or clunky, like on Sinking where the dissolution of the thicker guitars into gentle, almost post-rock territory is virtually seamless. It helps that all melody is kept to a maximum too, sometimes on the title track reminiscent of the more underground Britrock bands doing the rounds at the turn of the decade, but with some more oomph and drive before breaking into the heavier, more windswept final third, with tracks like Cope that pair the widescreen sound with the vigour it needs. And though Sean Midson’s couple of steps back in terms of expressiveness is where the album falters, he’s still a good singer, dealing mainly in presence for both screams and cleans try and make up for it.
But that’s arguably where Sickness‘ biggest issue lies, in that it’s an immaculately crafted album that could’ve been so much more if it pushed itself that bit further, rather than just a decent post-hardcore album that bears some sort of emotional core. Again, it’s not as if the emotion can’t be felt, but for the sort of details that Create To Inspire are selling here, there needs to be more to hit that truly satisfying climax. Still, as far as a continuation of their sound goes, Sickness is a good start, transferring all necessary components into a lean listen that still has some potency as it is. Hopefully they’ll be able to use this as a stepping stone to take themselves into something more raw and risky next time, but for now, the fact that this ensures there will be a next time is a good enough start.
For fans of: Acres, Saosin, Being As An Ocean
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Sickness’ by Create To Inspire is released on 26th May on Basick Records.