It would be easy to expect most people to come into this wondering who Old Faith is, assuming they’re a fresh band hitting the scene with a debut record. And you’d actually be partially correct, but there’s more to the story where this Greensboro, North Carolina quartet is concerned. This is technically Old Faith’s first album, but they previously worked under a different moniker, Bombardier, achieving some solid regional recognition with their duo of EPs, 2013’s You Don’t Know How Lucky You Are and 2016’s Liminality. Bombardier was also originally tasked to represent the expansion of Travis Brooks’ highly-regarded solo project Old Solar from an individual to a full band. That concept never came full circle though, and Bombardier seemed to drift away. That is, until the tragic passing of drummer David Beale’s father, David “Buck” Beale, Sr., at which point the musicians were brought back together with renewed inspiration, and decided they needed to pay sonic tribute under a new name. Thus, the awakening of Old Faith.
Old Faith’s debut can’t be discussed properly without acknowledging some peripheral items that involve the post-rock community at large. First being the budding but underrated North Carolina post-rock scene, which features bands like the aforementioned Old Solar, Goodbye, Titan and From Oceans To Autumn, all of whom have released massive-sounding albums in the past few years. Old Faith adds another layer to what is slowly becoming a region to keep an eye on. Secondly, and more integral to this release is the contribution of Brian Morgante, founding member of the post-rock band Deadhorse and owner/operator of Flesh & Bone Design in Erie, PA. Morgante’s stunning album artwork elevates Old Faith immediately, its triumphant and exhilarating mountain imagery providing listeners a canvas to dive into, and giving the album a sense of place as it progresses track to track. This is just another in a long string of contributions Morgante has provided the genre, including the original Open Language compilation art for A Thousand Arms and numerous flyer, t-shirt and album designs for bands like If These Trees Could Talk, maybeshewill, mewithoutyou, This Patch of Sky, Tides of Man, Pray For Sound, Man Mountain, RANGES, and Vasudeva .
Unlike their Carolinian contemporaries, which all tend toward expansive compositional styles, Old Faith is more about getting straight to the point, as evidenced in the opening track “Landing,” which wastes no time kicking into overdrive with its immediate launch into propulsive drumming and rousing riffage. During the process of listening to this album again and again I have found that it possesses an interesting quality of courting some of more well-tread clichés of post-rock without ever actually sinking into sameness. The hallmarks are all there — reverbed guitars, pretty lead melodies, requisite builds and crescendos — but it still somehow feels surprisingly fresh, likely due to the full-heartedness and lack of pretension that’s consistently on display throughout the album’s running time. Never is the listener left to languish in extended stretches of unwarranted experimentation, ambience or other such noodling, nor do we have to wait 7 minutes for a track to build momentum only to be left unsatisfied by a 40 second climax. There is a dedication to maintaining a sense of pacing and more traditional rock sensibilities with each composition. For instance, subtle variations in approach from Beale’s drumming on both “Landing” and the subsequent track “Reunion” make a huge difference, keeping things interesting for the listener and playing a back-and-forth with the guitars and bass rather than simply sitting back in support.
I’m only guessing at this point, but I get the sense that the reason for this band rebirth – the passing of Beale’s father – inspired a liveliness in the band members and their approach to their compositions. Rather than putting their focus toward more somber tones, it seems their goal was to celebrate our existence and commemorate an individual in whom they found inspiration. This can be felt throughout the record, and that’s what makes the difference. It’s not re-writing the playbook for post-rock, but it’s nevertheless reveling in it, using it to engage hearts and stir emotions, for the performers first and ultimately the audience. We’ve seen in recent years some instances of the post-rock formula proving problematic, whether it be in This Will Destroy You‘s tendency towards re-treading territory they’ve already crossed on New Others, Part One (although Part Two shows they are far from out of steam), or in Explosions in the Sky‘s potentially alienating diversion from the norm on The Wilderness. We’ve also seen an influx of copycat bands who know where they want to get but don’t know how to get there on their own. The magic of Old Faith is its ability to re-energize a proven format with pure heart and passion.
To circle back to the concept I previously touched upon regarding Morgante’s album artwork and the sense of place it provides, I will strongly recommend that listeners approach this as an “outdoors album.” I have spent time consuming these tracks both in my home office and in my car traversing the backroads, lakeside drives and mountainous passes of Vermont and can firmly declare that it is best served with a complementary landscape. While at home I may have gotten lost in distractions and allowed tracks like the brief but expansive sounding “Switchbacks” or the wrenchingly emotional “Vacancy” to fade into the background, given the focus and surroundings they deserve these songs take on new dimensions and deliver a rich, rewarding listening experience.
In a time of cynicism and uncertainty for post-rock, an era which has seen many great releases but also indications of cracks in the structure, the decline of legends and questions about who is strong enough to ascend the throne, an album like Old Faith is exactly what we all needed. It comes with a fitting title as well, as it restores an old faith in the form for longtime followers of the genre and reminds us all that sometimes it’s important to just enjoy the ride without spending too much time twisting our brains with demands of innovation. If you had to re-invent the wheel every time out you’d never be able to enjoy the simple brilliance of the core concept; Old Faith is that trusty vehicle we’ve come to love over the years, delivering the goods with a joyous passion for which there is no substitute.
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Old Faith released on September 14th of this year. You can grab it via the band’s Bandcamp link above.