“It’s about remembering who you are, or who you want to be; staying true to you.”
Ever since Gatherer first came onto the scene, their sound has been somewhat difficult to pin down. Whilst the band are not part of “the wave” – a regional scene of post-hardcore – they would fit perfectly alongside bands like Defeater, La Dispute and Pianos Become The Teeth. Gatherer seamlessly manage to mix together influences of all these bands and many more, resulting in an incredibly accessible and unique twelve tracks.
The sound presented on the band’s newest record Caught Between a Rock and a Sad Place seems like a more hardcore influenced Pianos Become The Teeth, or maybe a more melodic Touché Amoré or even Defeater. Whilst the ten tracks presented here are a continuation of their debut EP, 2012’s Postcards, everything is improved this time around. The main flaw of Postcards was the song lengths – many ideas the band presented showed potential, but with every track falling just short of two minutes, there was never a chance for the ideas to flourish into something beautiful. One look at the song lengths on Caught Between… reveals that this will not be a problem this time around, with the majority of songs averaging three minutes. 108 is the album’s longest track, nearing the four minute mark and after a slow Pianos-esque introduction along with the band’s first use of clean singing in their discography so far, the track practically explodes in pure post-hardcore fashion, whilst still allowing plenty of melodies to weave their way over the music. The band spends the last minute of the song riding out the repeated refrain of “They’re all dead/I can still feel it” whilst toying with a melodic guitar line – something that was often not present on Postcards.
This track is also the best example of the lyrical direction of the album – Singer Christian Berrigan’s brutally honest lyrics deal with the fear of death and trying (failing?) to remain positive in a world filled with evil. His screams during the track’s climax of “If there’s any good left in this world/I swear I will save you” are absolutely heartbreaking in its delivery. Other tracks are also incredibly relatable, as they discuss the fear of failure in the eyes of parents, not feeling good enough and nostalgia – themes become a platform from which Berrigan can launch more angrily than ever, still with the determination in his voice that made Postcards so damn good. Whilst many of the album’s lyrics are rooted in the negative, Brittle Bones (a re-recording of the final track on Postcards) is a strong contender for the most positive hardcore song of the decade so far, with such steller lines as “I have a sense of self, and I’m not afraid of change” and “These ambitions on my shoulders will put me in my grave.” Again, this acts as another highlight of the album as the track opens up in a fast-paced Touché Amoré-like fashion, before shifting into a slower tempo, stripping down to sustained chords and building back up into one of the finest endings heard in the genre in a long time.
The album also demonstrates how much each musician has improved in their department. Berrigan often changes between straight up screaming and an almost tortured singing, all to the backdrop of incredibly tight musicianship, which too is also a lot more varied in comparison to the debut EP, as the band often delves soft/loud dynamics. Production is also handled by drummer Adam Chichocki, who’s job is more clean and streamlined in comparison to Postcards yet it still manages to retain that sense of rawness that made Postcards sound so good. At twenty-eight minutes too, the album is the perfect length.
Overall, Gatherer have created something special. Caught Between a Rock and a Sad Place shows that the only way this band can go is up, and many listeners may be hard-pressed to believe that this is only their second release. The sheer truthfulness of the lyrics and the brutally honest perception of the world around them should be enough to put this album miles ahead of their contemporaries.