For a while in hardcore, it’s seemed as though the better company a band keeps, the better that band is likely to be. Sure, it’s easy to chalk it up to pure coincidence, but when it happens as frequently as it does – the number of bands associated with Gallows and under the Venn Records umbrella, or just the entirety of the Holy Roar roster being prime examples – it’s nice to think the general scene camaraderie has a positive effect overall. It’s not too much of a stretch to presume that it’s a similar case on the lower rungs of the ladder, and thus there are some high expectations that come with Starve To Survive’s Have Me To Waste. For one, having it produced by Loathe guitarist Connor Sweeney is a good sign right out the gate, but further associations with bands like Black Tongue and Lotus Eater paint an exceptionally strong picture altogether, and given the already-positive reception to their debut EP Life // Loss, the expectations for this follow-up are already pretty high to say the least.
Whether Starve To Survive have quite reached that point yet, though, is difficult to say. There’s definitely a lot of good ideas here, and it’s easy to see what’s osmosed in through the scene they’ve kept themselves in, but Have Me To Waste feels more like a composite of those ideas rather than something that not only consolidates them, but also builds upon them. That’s especially easy to see in the overall sound, experimenting with dissonance and enormous heft before topping it off with some utter vocal savagery. That’s all well and good, but there’s a certain degree of blandness about the whole thing that can offset any significant, standout ideas, and bring them crashing down. The fact that God Complex’s Harry Rule can barely be picked out on his guest spot on Dismal says a lot about just how deeply Starve To Survive are ingrained in this scene, but the glances towards Code Orange on the violent, noisy grind of Twinge and Dread are hard to ignore, especially when Starve To Survive end up painting themselves into a corner because of them. Again, it’s hardly a bad sound to draw influence from, but Have Me To Waste can feel like outright emulation more times that it should, and it can leave an exciting, innovative sound without a lot of its effect.
It’s not like there’s nothing to get from this EP though; what could easily have been another by-the-books hardcore or metalcore release at least branches off into heavier, grimier tones and off-kilter compositions that, in the long run, could be beneficial. It’s a definite plus that Starve To Survive can maintain the crushing execution almost unfailingly regularly, buoyed by the sort of leveling guitar tone that always brings some kind of thrill, and a production style that, while sharp and keeping the negative space filled enough with ghostly synths to not alienate the majority of the metalcore and tech-metal crowds, isn’t afraid to deviate from the rigidity that scene frequently has for sharper, more acute transitions. It’s not necessarily a progressive release – Starve To Survive are smart enough to know what their limits are and keep to them – but there’s plenty of edge and pummelling spikes in sound for this to be at least interesting and captivating all the way through.
That’s why it’s difficult to really dislike what Starve To Survive are doing. Sure, it’s hardly new when the band’s influences are worn so prominently on their sleeves, but as far as this sound goes, they’re not bad at it, and with a bit more time to really find their feet, there could be something great to come from this, in the vein of how Code Orange or Loathe have taken similar journeys. That alone instills a bit more hope regarding what Starve To Survive can achieve; Have Me To Waste can easily be seen as more of a jumping-off point than anything else, but the best moments that it presents could easily blossom into something with a lot of potential.
For fans of: Code Orange, Loathe, God Complex
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Have Me To Waste’ by Starve To Survive is released on 15th February on Caliber Management.