One of the advantages of melodic hardcore is that, as long as you’re believable in what you’re selling, innovation can usually be eschewed without many major consequences. It’s definitely worked in the past; Touché Amoré’s Stage Four is currently the go-to example and likely will be for some time, but even an album like Counterparts’ You’re Not You Anymore managed to work thanks to its unrefined, uncensored displays of emotion.
And yet at the same time, there still needs to be some definable trait for an act to ground themselves in, something that Canvas currently need to work on grasping. On debut album Worry, the band are playing directly in the lane of modern British post-hardcore and melodic hardcore, namely atmospheric swathes of guitars, a general sense of tumultuous drama that this whole thing is positively dripping with, and in Ricky Clarke, a vocalist hell-bent on squeezing out every last drop of agony from his screams. None of that is particularly novel, and when it comes to how Canvas appropriate those styles and tones for themselves, the result is the worst case scenario of being so uninteresting and by-the-numbers that there’s nothing to really gravitate towards. Compare this to Create To Inspire’s Sickness from earlier this year, an album that remains mostly forgotten but did do enough to push out a pass, and to see Worry struggling to muster even that isn’t a good sign going forward.
At least to Canvas’ credit, the biggest positive of their sound as a whole is pushed right to the front, that being Clarke himself and the way in which he presents himself. Bar Loveless where each syllable feels laboriously stretched out and ultimately feels more like hard work than it should, there’s a clear sense of desperation that Clarke’s harsh rasp is adept at conveying. This is an album that’s unfazed about letting loose its emotional flood, and on tracks like Low and C.O.L.D, Clarke is positioned right at the front of these tracks to give his output as much exposure as possible. Coupled with a naturally open mix for the swirling turbulence that this sort of material has long since relied on, Worry comes within spitting distance of capturing some truly combustible work.
But for as close as this album comes, it struggles to fully hit it, largely because Canvas are relying on such an immobile take on a sound that has been done before; it would be something to suggest it’s merely a lack of identifiable or fully-formed personality (which can be a slight issue but only that), but at points, Worry feels as though its saving grace is solely its vocals. There’s a bit more spark when Canvas verge on more aggressive, harder material like on The Death Of Us with its militant drum work that brings to mind a more traditional hardcore sound, but overall, Worry is just such a workaday and bland take on a sound that’s been done before and done better. It’s not even as though there’s any significant innovation that could at least see Canvas claw their way to even the mildest win; tracks like Stay A While and Haunt You are such customary pieces of a body of work that has already been formulated in its entirety, and even on one of the better tracks like Hospital Beds with its flowing guitar work that opens out more easily, it’s still drawing wholesale from tones that have already been established by other acts. Even so far as the writing, which is meant to be the true standout for an album like this where the vocalist can bear their soul and exorcise whatever demons plague them, Clarke sticks to a formulaic portrayal of grief which doesn’t completely fall flat thanks to his vocals intensity, but ends up feeling like such a textbook approximation of what a melodic hardcore band should be doing.
And that’s the most apt way to sum up Worry as a whole, an album that tries to create a sense of profound impact and weight, but ultimately resorts to basic, faceless regurgitation that’ll only get them so far. It could definitely be worse – as far as melodic hardcore goes, there’s a seed of a good idea somewhere in here, and Clarke has already gotten something of a head start – but at the minute, there’s nothing distinct about Canvas that so many others in their position haven’t done or aren’t already doing. Hopefully Worry is merely a stepping stone for greater things to come next time; they’re capable of it, but they just need to show it more.
For fans of: Create To Inspire, Landscapes, Counterparts
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Worry’ by Canvas is released on 6th October on Basick Records.