Review by Sheldon Hubbard
Even if some aren’t apt to accept the incorporation of slurring super-sleuth horns into heavy, boots-to-the-ground punk music, there are those that will go absolutely ape shit over the pairing (myself included). I can’t help but be drawn to music that is grounded in revolution and thrives in excellence with its experimentation. When you come from a region of music with a reputation for sky-rocketing some of the most brain saturating experimental alternative sounds, you have to step to the forefront with might and tenacity. The modern punk/hardcore scene all around the United States and across the world is like a huge carnal roulette of sounds. Some that are similar with a unique bend in the favor of the composing musician, and then you have incorporations that can be downright zany. Actionesse is a brassy conglomeration of the blissful and the brooding on their debut LP: The Deep, Bright Below.
The album starts out with a soothing progression of drum taps and clicks, soon joined by a bass riff that is simple and smooth. Something that seems to set a tempo for the audience to tap their heel along to. Little do they know…shit is about to GO. DOWN. The tapping and clicking becomes vigorous and the bass syncs to the swelling of the speed. Then suddenly you hear the screech of a guitar as it acts like a roaring battle cry to announce the surge of sound that is about to engulf your ears; a harmonious accord between meaty horns and hellacious hammering strings rooted in the elasticity of a vintage post-hardcore pulsation. You only just get to the end of the first track (“I Want Doubts”), when you blast into the next whirling mass of sound that you still aren’t quite sure about…but it feels good. It has a raw energy that collides and clings with complexity and blistering, boisterous passion.
The entire album is a thrill ride of heterogeneous harmonics and movie-score level melodies that are unrelenting with the message that it wishes to convey. Something to the effect of: revolution doesn’t work if it is approached in silence; revolution is noisy and profound. This album is more than an album; it is an experience that was manufactured to insight the mind to think freely from what you are fed by the media and to have some damn fun doing it!
I’ve got to be honest…while I love the sound and slant that this band is going for, I could not personally listen to it day in and day out. That being said, I do know plenty of humans that would not only find Actionesse’s sound fascinating and worth listening to but would probably choose to follow the bands every move throughout their rise to becoming one of the coolest bands in modern punk music. I am no music production expert but the only speed bump I found in listening to this record is that the horns seemed to overpower the vocals and other instruments at times. I love the inception of horn-core, it is an exciting mixture, but I feel that the horns shouldn’t overpower the core.
I had to inquire about some of the lyrics, but when it comes to any form of musical expression that involves words… I am a total sucker for the oomph and awe that the lyrics have in relation to the instrumentation. Some of the lyrics on this record that stood out to me the most in pertinence to the overall sound:
“Bones are numb / Tongue is broken / Eyes wide at the chance to choke / See it shining in the light / No question / When your life’s been just a joke.” – "Fully Clothed/Slightly Concussed." Even with only being the second track on the record, you feel totally immersed in the noise and the sound of Ian Reed’s voice is prominent and screeching with effervescent clarity. It may take you a couple listens to attune your ear to the intensity of the vocals in relation to the force that is the instrumentation, but Reed belts pretty clearly throughout the record. I feel like this set of lyrics screams at those instances when you want to stand up for what you believe in but you can’t seem to find the words to fit how you’re feeling. It’s like your tongue is broken and you are choking on the words you want to say but you are being challenged and don’t know how to handle it…at first.
"They made me change my face / Just to ease a / A sullen sound / They put me far away / Just so I would never be found … But if you find me, then you find out / If you find me, then you find out (x2) / If you find me … I think I’ve wasted my whole life / Call it self-subterfuge…” – "Self-Subterfuge." If you are unsure of what subterfuge means (like I was), it is defined as: “deception by artifice or stratagem in order to conceal, escape, or evade.” This song seems like a call to crawl out of woe after woe that has been presented in your life. After one has so many negative things that happen to them one after the other, you start to seek some sort of escape or possible outlet. In a world with so many people in search of their true purpose in life, it can be discouraging at times to see others excel in their craft where you seem to just be…stuck, or “wasting your life.”
“I want the gold standard / I want it all / If you live for nothing / You’re a fool / Bury me / With all I own / You won’t get it back / Not even when I’m cold.” – "Menace." I feel like this song is not only a fitting follow up to "Self-Subterfuge," it also has to be my favorite on the record. I feel that it holds one of the strongest dynamics on the album both lyrically and instrumentally. The song opens with a resounding roar to find what you stand for and not give up on it. Having a conviction is more than just a firmly held belief or opinion; it is something that is a part of who you are. Nothing is stronger than making a stance for what you believe in, especially in a period of history when being the same as other is more praiseworthy than shining in your individuality. That’s what the “gold standard” is all about, rising above the societal norm, living for something, and planting yourself so firmly in it that no one can take it from you…even when you’re dead.
When you listen to this album, you aren’t just listening to some whacky cesspool of random noises…you are listening to a gathering of precise musical notation that plants its feet firmly on the ground and does not back down until the record rings out its final notes. The lyrics breathe of nonconformity and standing up for one’s independence when faced with a society that ushers ignorance in the form of obedience. The instrumentation allows you the chance to rock out to the heavy riffage that is a staple of post-hardcore while getting a fresh homage to atmospheric cinematic horns. Actionesse is one of those bands that are loud and in your face but they are loud and in your face with a purpose; and that is something I personally feel that the modern punk/metal scene has been lacking in the past few years. This music bleeds and sweats with glorious, high-octane heart and a magma-fueled passion to make your voice the loudest in the room. You want to grab a copy of this record, or at least give it a couple listens through. You may even find out a little more about yourself after visiting The Deep, Bright Below.