Nothing More’s marketing does them no favours whatsoever. They’re certainly a unique proposition, fusing the most contemporary hard rock and progressive rock with liberal elements of pop and electronica, but for some reason, rock’s taxonomy has put them alongside far more basic bands like Five Finger Death Punch and Papa Roach. That’s not to snub either of those acts by any means, but considering the diversity and the off-kilter undertakings that Nothing More have made their forte – not to mention the sort of chaotic, unpredictable live performances that those bands tend to steer clear from – the only similarities are some variation of hard rock and a vocalist whose power really can’t be understated.
With that in mind, The Stories We Tell Ourselves seems to have the sole aim of hammering home how much wider Nothing More’s ideas stretch, an hour long prog-alt-metal monster surrounding the working and conflicting machinations of the human mind. That might sound like a weighty task, especially when a good proportion of this album’s eighteen tracks are interludes, either instrumental or to detail some sort of philosophical musing about the cognitive processes that drive much of human thought. And even though it does take a couple of spins to click, The Stories We Tell Ourselves is actually an entirely accessible and enjoyable listen, for the key reason that it doesn’t hinge on its concept to succeed. It’s always there to match Jonny Hawkins’ own histrionic vocal work, but he’s such an expressive and magnetic performer in his own right that he’s able to drive the gamut of emotions on show without tying himself down. Power certainly isn’t an issue – just take Let ‘Em Burn, Go To War or virtually any other track on here to see the astounding heights that Hawkins can crank his vocals to – but the angles and directions he contorts himself in are more impressive still, from harsh, stabbing rage on Don’t Stop to mournful hard rock belting on Still In Love and naked vulnerability on Just Say When.
Of course, the rest of the band deserve a lot of praise here, especially considering just how much goes into this album without sounding awkward or forced. That’s maybe strange to think about as well, as at its core, The Stories We Tell Ourselves is built out of fairly straightforward hard rock tracks; from a constructional standpoint, the likes of Do You Really Want It and Funny Little Creatures have all the big riffs and monster choruses as the acts they’re often grouped together with. The difference is that Nothing More have a grasp of a much wider breadth of styles that they use to their advantage, like the tumbling prog riffs and drumming on The Great Divorce, the clinical metal slam of Do You Really Want It and Ripping Me Apart, the soulful acoustic Just Say When, and especially Don’t Stop with its frigid, abrasive electronics that make way for crunching metalcore guitars. It’s amazing that everything works as well as it does, but there’s such an elegance to the way that Nothing More go about their cross-pollination of genres that never feels forced or clumsy. Even on a track like Tunnels that comes across as one of the more conventional cuts on the surface, there’s still an underlying complexity to the guitar work and a watery vocal filter that synthesise seamlessly with the rest of the track.
And that’s kind of the go-to view of Nothing More, a band for whom expectations start out lukewarm at best, but that blow them out of the water with every listen. At least with The Stories We Tell Ourselves there was the benefit of greater prior exposure, and while this isn’t the true masterpiece they’re well and truly capable of making, it comes damn close all the same. The abundance of interludes can admittedly feel trying and bulk up to album to a level that can feel excessive, but with barely a bad song otherwise and that being the only black mark on its record, The Stories We Tell Ourselves fully smashes the boundaries of hard rock for a fascinating and utterly spellbinding listen.
For fans of: Karnivool, Starset, Highly Suspect
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘The Stories We Tell Ourselves’ by Nothing More is released on 15th September on Better Noise Records.