ALBUM REVIEW: Shell Beach – ‘Solar Flare’

Artwork for Shell Beach’s ‘Solar Flare’ - a humanoid crouching on a planet surface made of warped metal

The name alone is enough to whet the appetite for all blue shell toting wagon racers. But to even greater surprise, Shell Beach does not mimic 8-bit tropical escapades through Shy Guys’ sunbathing spots. Instead, the quintet is an amalgamation of Hungary’s underground rock and metal players, delivering a brand of stadium post-hardcore on their brash, if ubiquitous, third full-length.

Ah, to be a scene kid back in the late noughties. Mock fringes, wristbands, the cartoonish neon band tee with breakdown callout back design. I wore some of ‘em, and the screamed-sung-screamed formula definitely got me going. So did those “woe is me!” choruses. Let’s not forget the pneumatic drills of chugging open notes. Phwoar. Shell Beach do not have the cringey sheen of much of the splattering of post-hardcore bands, instead its well-defined playing and heartfelt delivery. But in terms of songwriting, there are tropes across the effervescent Solar Flare that feel remarkably close to déjà vu.

Dismembering Games pounds the low strings, as immediate an opener as a headbopper needs. It’s got a churn for stankface reactions and, forgiving my possibly off-pitch ear, the tuning makes it sound remarkably familiar to …And Watched It Glow from Puppy’s latest effort. That’s no bad thing, naturally, albeit the vocals here are confusingly both haphazard and considered. Choral “whoa-ohs”—that simplistic beauty for crowd control—ring lovingly. Overlapped shrieks, potentially ad-libbed, dart around the place. There’s the occasional “waow!”, the involuntarily “wahoo-ow!”, almost a mimic of the screams that defined ‘09 metalcore.

A Skylit Drive springs to mind, especially on follower Absolution, whose vocal melody and octave chords are beautifully evocative of fleeting musical times. The meat-and-potatoes beatdown bounce does deliver in The Devil And More, and jubilant lead licks over the breakdown of Hydra make the track shimmer and pop. Does Miracle Misdemeanour’s intro nod to Fall Out Boy’s Dance, Dance?

Nonetheless, Shell Beach doesn’t opt for all out verse-chorus-verse-chug syndrome to become a full pastiche of the scene dream, implementing the influences as and when. Rubbing against synth swings and blues slides in the balladic Hero are staccato panic chords and screams that sound mahoosive and euphoric. It’s a catchy and strong vocal performance from new member Zoltan Bodóczy, similarly standing out on groove-centric Feeble Glory. The guitarist’s Swancore sounding riffs peep here, fitted into a heavier context in Love Craft – House of Death, which chugs and weedles with as much wonderment as its Lovecraftian namesake title.

While some unforgettable moments do occur, the band save their centrepiece for last. Olyan Szépek Voltunk (We Were So Beautiful) hits hard not just for being a juggernaut shoegaze number. Lyrically a popular Hungarian song by guitarist Paul Somló’s late father Tamás, whose death inspired the writing for a lot of the record, its transition to a post-hardcore context feels organic. Its emotional heft washes in droves, with Paul himself handling all vocal duties to see us out in wonderful fashion.

Some bands have been recapturing and refining the beloved features of a sound and scene that has been long missed—stalwarts Devil Sold His Soul have the tear jerking melodic hardcore, and SeeYouSpaceCowboy handle sassy emo. Shell Beach are looking to craft a soul-worthy collection of post-hardcore in this day and age, which is no mean feat. Albeit a hefty tracklist, similar in too many patches, by doubling down on the more intricate riffs and dual vocal attack, the pay off could be more in the forward-thinking than the nostalgic.

For fans of: We Came As Romans, Devil Sold His Soul, Memphis May Fire

‘Solar Flare’ by Shell Beach is released on 17th February on Wild Thing Records.

Words by Elliot Burr

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