Even for a band like Eskimo Callboy, naming their new album Rehab feels a bit too on-the-nose. Their brand of fratboy metalcore has never been big on subtlety, to the point where certain parts of their discography have been truly excruciating to listen to, but in what’s supposed to be their turning into introspection, there’s something so flagrant about a title like that which does convey the necessary skeleton of what they’re trying to do, but still crashes down of a band playing so rigidly to the arc they’ve built for themselves. It might be a petty complaint to have right off the bat, but it anticipates the same sort of boring shallowness that’s permeated such a sizable chunk of this band’s work, and in what is ostensibly supposed to be them turning over a new leaf and facing away from the debauchery instead of running headlong into it, that sort of first impression doesn’t foster much in the way of confidence.
But at the end of the day, a band like this finally biting the bullet and bringing some much-needed self-awareness into the equation is certainly a good thing, and though Rehab is far from a stellar release even with the numerous concessions made, it’s a big improvement all the same. As much as Eskimo Callboy stumble into the occasion pasture of metalcore banality that’s still not all that great, they’re able to pack the scope and hooks into this album that had been so regularly missing from their past work, and for what’s a rather brisk listen, it’s much easier to pull enjoyment from this side of them than the ultra-obnoxious caricatures of themselves. Sure, exceedingly low expectections are a benefit, but they’re ultimately what makes Rehab far less of a headache than could’ve initially been predicted.
That’s not to oversell all of this, mind, because in the grand scheme of metalcore’s more modern strains, Rehab still can’t help but buckle under the weight of industrial-strength clichés, regardless of how much Eskimo Callboy have bent them to fit their more mature standing. It’s worth pointing out that ditching the party-boy shtick they’d been phoning in for this long is without question a good thing, but when that’s been replaced with broad platitudes about inner turmoil and being damaged, it’s hard to get onboard too heavily, especially when Eskimo Callboy aren’t selling it with too much detail. The acknowledgment of how hollow and damaging that party lifestyle can be on Hurricane is a moment of deeper reflection that connects on a far more potent level, but broader takes on the same theme like with the title track and especially takes on social commentary and mental health that feel much more exaggerated than they should on Made By America and Nice Boi respectively don’t go nearly as far as would be needed to call this great.
It’s a shame too, because musically, Rehab is a noticeable step up without nearly as many concessions, taking on a bigger, more melodic metalcore sound that’s not quite wholly organic, but feels like the product of a band with intentions to do more than just run the clock out with the same barren template once again. Again, natural limitations do strike, particularly the vocals from both Sebastian Biesler and Kevin Ratajczak, neither of which are all that robust or even distinct from one another, but in grasping a more tangible sense of anthemia this time around, there’s at least enough in the way of quality to circumvent those weaknesses to a point. The heavier, buzzed-out stomp of It’s Going Down and a frankly killer drum and bass groove on Nice Boi have a surprising amount of teeth for this brand of metalcore, while the transition from low-slung guitars and chopped-up vocal samples to a quick-stepping melodic bounce on Okay is actually really well done, simply for how seamless it feels. There are individual moments on this album which are genuinely impressive thanks to how far about their pay grade Eskimo Callboy actually go, and even if that’s not a constant factor (which, to be blunt, it isn’t), there’s enough to be impressed by overall. Even with the more basic, expected melodic metalcore style, it’s really only predictable rather than outright bad, and though that mightn’t be an ideal outcome, to have it tip over into the positive at all is more than Eskimo Callboy have been awarded in the past.
That’s why, for as small of a drop in the colossal metalcore ocean as this is, Rehab does deserve something of a pass at the end of it all. It’s not great and succumbs to plenty of the stumbling blocks that modern forms of the genre have indefinitely struggled to get around, but some fine melodic grounding and a number of surprisingly impressive moments do add up, especially for a band like Eskimo Callboy who’ve been so close to tipping into abject worthlessness for the longest time. This definitely isn’t worthless, even if it’s still a bit shaky, and displays a real bout of evolution that not only needed to happen, but has been embraced with a decent amount of force, at that. Especially within the catalogue of this band, it’s worth a go.
For fans of: Asking Alexandria, The Word Alive, Crown The Empire
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Rehab’ by Eskimo Callboy is released on 1st November on Century Media Records.