In the ever-turbulent world of underground UK hardcore, you’d be hard pressed to find a band who’ve delivered on their promise to a greater extent than Palm Reader. 2013’s Bad Weather was the sort of frighteningly potent debut full-length most bands can only wish for in its blood-pumping cross section of Converge and The Dillinger Escape Plan, and Beside The Ones We Love two years later was definitive proof that that debut was not a fluke. Along with incendiary live performances and the sort of word-of-mouth promotion from both listeners and peers, Palm Reader’s star has only been on the rise since their formation.
It also helps that no one expected Braille to result in anything different either; Palm Reader’s track record speaks for itself, and there was no indication that this would be any different. However, if one album was going to divide opinion amongst their fanbase, it’d probably be this one, as it serves as such a strong redaction of their core sound that it’s difficult to know how it’ll ultimately be received. This is a more melodic, post-hardcore leaning fare, reducing the venom and erratics of previous efforts by great deals. And yet, this is Palm Reader, and they know what they’re doing by now to seem comfortable in a change like this. Yes, Braille is something of a departure, but it still has the same precision and excellence that’s become synonymous with this band over the years.
It’s not as if Palm Reader have totally gentrified themselves either, as their brand of technical, seething anger is still very much embedded within Braille‘s DNA. The jagged fragments of discord and wrenched chaos are still present on Swarm and Like A Wave, but these feel greatly reduced this time around, instead replaced by more of a desire for scope and atmosphere. As such, there are tracks like the two atmospheric interludes Breach and Dorothy, or the gargantuan Coalesce which switches from ethereal post-rock to crushing, towering melodic hardcore. It’s a noticeable departure, but it’s one that Palm Reader can easily take in their stride, adding the strings of atmosphere and early screamo to their bow without significantly removing anything else. As a result, Braille feels like such a superb refining of sound, opening itself out into greater things without losing that surging intent that characterised Palm Reader’s previous albums. Just take Josh McKeown and his growth as a vocalist here, utilising clean vocals to a greater extent than he perhaps ever has before on tracks like Inertia and A Lover, A Shadow, to the point where screams feel a lot more instinctive and hold a lot more weight when they do come.
That’s why that, even though Braille may appear to some as a truncation of sound, it’s Palm Reader’s most fully-formed release to date, building on their established, acclaim formula for something slightly more accessible but still dripping in portentous presence and storming emotion. Ultimately, it’s the sort of triumph that just might see Palm Reader worm their way out of an isolated hardcore scene, and into some genuine recognition; it was never going to happen any other way, but they’ve done it without compromising their ethos and also sounding the best they ever have.
For fans of: Feed The Rhino, Rolo Tomassi, Casey
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Braille’ by Palm Reader is released on 6th April on Silent Cult Records.