About a year ago Frameworks received a (well deserved) chance to earn some recognition on a much larger scale. They were invited to open for legendary melodic hardcore act Modern Life Is War, as well as Geoff Rickley of Thursday‘s emoviolence project United Nations. In a lineup so stacked, it should have been easy to convince people to stay for the opener. However, at least in Philadelphia, the band’s set was largely ignored by many of the attendees who used their allotted time as an opportunity for a smoke break. Frameworks took the stage and performed the ever-loving shit out of their short collection of songs regardless. They lurched back and forth, screamed with all the intensity they could muster, and left the stage seeming utterly exhausted, as if they had left everything possible up there.
Since then much has changed for Frameworks. They changed from their old label, the more emo/post hardcore leaning Topshelf Records, to now-legendary hardcore label Deathwish Inc. It may not seem like a significant transition, but it seems to be almost a direct result of the darker, more rich tone that Frameworks has taken on their sophomore LP, Smother. It shows the band exploring a more lush soundscape than their previous releases. The sound is thicker, the instrumentation more varied and captivating than the sometimes overly standard screamo affair, and there’s clearly been a notable amount of growth since Loom.
Take, for example, a personal favorite track on the album, “Trite”. It starts with a bass groove much deeper and darker than what Frameworks is used to, leaving room for the guitars to do some incredibly interesting noodling before finally engaging the bass line with a riff of their own. By the time the vocals and drums fill in what is left of the song the bass and guitar work has already provided an easy hook for the listener. Every part has its own role and where Frameworks truly excels at beefing up their sound is allowing each of these parts to mingle while still retaining a distinct personality. There is a mutual understanding between the guitars with the lead never burying the rhythm but instead conjoining with it for truly stunning effect. Over this, the vocal work shines through as pain yelps and screams accent the often gentle, moody nature of the guitars. And, under all of this, is one of the most powerful, percussive rhythm sections in modern screamo. Their backbones give them song ample room to grow, something which the players more on the forefront are never afraid to embrace and run with.
What is most impressive about Smother, however, is the consistency with which it delivers these hard hitting musical moments. “Trite” was where this review may have started, but realistically it does not appear on the record until track 9 of 11. This speaks volumes about the quality of the record overall: even near the end Frameworks never loses sight of their vision. In fact, the last three tracks show the band playing their moodiest, most diverse material as they embrace some of the ambient-leaning guitar work of genre greats such as City of Caterpillar and Envy. This is not to discount the first half of the record either, as without such immediate bangers like “Fear of Missing Out” and “Song of Myself,” it would be difficult to find a jumping-on point. Nor are these first few songs just loaded to the brim with Framework’s newer, more experimental leanings. Specifically, “Song of Myself” provides a fairly straightforward screamo song that then descends into utter chaos through various effects before finally climaxing in an emotional “breakdown” of sorts. Where Frameworks strength lies on Smother is their ability to diversify and mix their ideas while still recognizing that the more energetic material belongs on the front end while the heavy hitters work as a perfect way to close a record. It leaves an impression and makes for a more complete, memorable listening experience.
On Smother, Frameworks has harnessed the raw passion of Loom and their previous EP’s and channeled them into a more concise, more mature effort. This maturity pays off in dividends as the band moves their sound into a refreshingly dark new territory that more fully utilizes each musicians abilities and rounds out their sound in a more full way. The album is still distinctly Frameworks material, but a larger emphasis on what can be done in the ambient sense of the music once again helps to flesh out the material. All in all Smother is a huge step up from Loom, which was a fantastic album in its own rite, and shows Frameworks as an exciting new band to continue to watch, even if screamo/post hardcore is not always your preferred cup of tea.