Returning We Hear The Larks

Proud England

01. Uprising
02. Vendetta
03. Unrest
04. Conquest

[03/10/11]
[Self-Released]

Eventually, a relatively new and trending subgenre will start to become oversaturated with derivative soundalikes. I’ve got to be honest with you folks, whenever I see the word “djent” in my inbox submissions, I have a tendency to skip over it unless its from someone I know or a band I already like. Call me a hypocrite in the comments section for the amount of high-mid groove that I adore and regularly feature here on Heavy Blog, but outside of some of the bigger names (Periphery, Tesseract, Uneven Structure) there’s not too a lot of bands I bother to keep up with in the hopes of not diminishing the impact that my favorite bands are making. Every now and then though, a band or project will sneak in that not only fits the style well, but does it as well if not better than those bigger names. As if you couldn’t guess the trajectory of my thought process, this applies to Jak Noble, aka Returning We Hear the Larks.

If you weren’t aware, Returning We Hear The Larks is not a new project; his bandcamp page lists six previous releases under the RWHTL name. Proud England marks a slight shift in sound in the Returning We Hear The Larks sound however, with the songwriting revolving around a more pointed style. While Ypres saw sprawling songs that had great length, Proud England is a bit more straightforward in delivery in which the EP’s four tracks do not stretch beyond six minutes. The most notable change though is the decision to include vocals this time around that makes this album stand out. This decision was a priceless benefit, where haunting vocal melodies and a visceral screaming voice add to the album’s memorability.

As great as the new direction is, the clean vocals are flawed to a point; while noticeably weak at points, they actually don’t detract from the album at all, as some passages are the most memorable moments of the EP and make up for any shaky delivery. That being said, a voice doesn’t need to be pitch-perfect one hundred percent of the time to be an excellent one. Case in point: Deftones’ Chino Moreno, whom Jak seems to be channeling in “Conquest.” Without mistake, the vocals make this EP. The screams are spot on and the interplay between the two styles is superb, as in the layering of the two styles in “Vendetta.” The way the vocals and lyrics flow along with the music is also incredibly catchy. Jak mentioned in interview that coming up with the lyrical aspect of Proud England was incredibly difficult, but the hard work has certainly paid off.

As previously mentioned, the album is firmly rooted in the djent movement, where Meshuggah-influenced rhythm and tone are juxtaposed against an ambient atmosphere. While this is nothing new, (Tesseract have more or less patented the style) Jak pulls it off masterfully, with “Vendetta” being some of the best use of the style in recollection. As is the staple, Jak rides the bottom strings to deliver a chunky groove under layers of delicate and sparse guitar lines and atmospheric pads. Bass is also very present, which highlights Jak’s multi-instrumentalism and care for fine detail in arrangement by allowing a few moments here and there to make the bass a prominent instrument in a genre awash with guitarists demanding their seven (or eight) strings get the center of attention. The music is just as memorable as the vocals; both the instrumental and vocal aspects of this record feel like they were written for each other, as opposed to the all too common “groove now, vox later” attitude.

Proud England is most definitely a surprise hit; I didn’t expect a four track EP to hold just about as much enjoyment as a I got out of some of the higher profile releases. This is without a doubt Jak’s greatest release to date, and a full length exploring this direction can’t come fast enough.

Returning We Hear The Larks gets…

4.5/5

- JR