Right now, the waning popularity of metalcore is palpable. Intense over saturation for the best part of a decade will do that, but given how prolific the vast quantities of no-marks pushed to the first class seats of the hype train with hyperbolic pull quotes in tow have been, the drought lately is much more noticeable. Maybe it’s due to the sea change of mainstream rock finally fully crossing over into metal which has seen vast swathes of more actively game-playing bands cut down to size, but it’s been refreshing to see regardless, especially to have a breather from a new one coming up what felt like every other day. And even then, when considering a band like Tenside, it’s not even that they’re the recipients of some organised push, rather a band who’ve gotten this far through decent work ethic and, most recently, a lengthy European tour with Killswitch Engage.
It’s easy for that information to colour the reception to Glamour & Gloom as well, as while under the duress of metalcore’s previous infestation it’d be easy to dismiss a band like this as just another act pulling from the same sources as all the others and move on, it’s honestly fine for what it is. It’s not like what it is is all that remarkable – bombastic metalcore where the aforementioned connection to Killswitch Engage is at its most clear rarely is these days – but there’s enough distance between this and the contrivances that almost felt like part of the furniture within this genre once upon a time. Even then, it’s pretty much fitted in the ‘for genre completionists’ catagory, but it’s still pretty decent regardless on the whole.
That does come with the pretty sizable caveat of not having a whole lot about it that’s new though, particularly when any lyricism is concerned that’s pretty much designed to plug into the designated spaces that this genre has left for itself. Tracks about rising up together with solidarity and big missives about the state of the world, both politically and environmentally, are here, as is to be expected, and it’s not like Tenside are really trying to put their own spin on them. To their credit, they’re certainly convincing in how they sell these messages, particularly in Daniel Kuhlemann’s vocals which have the While She Sleeps-esque quality of always swinging for the fences with anthemic gusto without losing sight of the gravity a roughened growl brings, but at least While She Sleeps regularly have their pointed one-liners to hang everything around them on. With Tenside, there’s a solid command of melody in the choruses of tracks like As Above So Below and The Last Anthem, but there’s not too much that’s all that memorable beyond how wide-reaching the bluster is. It cultivates a potent atmosphere, but get even slightly beyond that and there’s doesn’t feel like much to dig into and holds Tenside back from being as rampant and powerful as they could be.
At least that’s not an issue when it comes to Glamour & Gloom’s overall sound, taking cues from 2000s metalcore almost wholesale in a way that, again, isn’t all that novel, but feels like the area where Tenside hit their stride the most. For one, it’s the same sort of production style that gives a vibe of unfettered triumph in terms of its scale, complete with the melodeath touches to feed a bit more heft into the equation. The result is an album that definitely has polish and the big-budget feel of Trivium or Killswitch Engage, but never so much that the actual metal elements feel compromised in the way that so many others have failed to achieve. If the likes of The Devil Within or Voyage Of The Damned had been released a decade-and-a-half ago, they’d be metalcore staples by now, such is the portentous size that feels so intrinsic in Tenside’s operations. It’s not entirely a throwback but the similarities to that time period are blatant all over this album, and when Tenside lean into them as far as they do, it’s almost entirely to their benefit. Regardless of whether it elevates above that subsection of metalcore and into more open waters in the way that those other bands have (which, for the record, not a lot of it does), Glamour & Gloom is serviceable without that being faint praise, doing everything it needs to succeed and doing it well, but not quite going the extra mile to be truly special.
That’s not a damning issue though, especially when this type of metalcore is looked upon far more fondly as it is, and Tenside are perfectly capable of pulling it off well. They aren’t necessarily adding anything to conversation – which, if a major flaw was to be identified, it would be that – but neither are they detracting from a sound that’s always stood resolute within metalcore. On the whole, Glamour & Gloom is more of a comfortable listen than anything, never pushing any boundaries or causing any sort of disturbance but never feeling lesser because of it either, and not standing out in too many ways but not being put at a stark disadvantage because of that. It’s a perfectly decent, straight-down-the-middle type of metal album, and while that’s hardly the most volatile of praise, sometimes that’s enough, and in this case, it just about is.
For fans of: Killswitch Engage, Trivium, While She Sleeps
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Glamour & Gloom’ by Tenside is released on 20th March on Ivorytower Records.