Review: Palisades – Mind Games

palisades_2015

The last thing you want to hear from me as we start off the New Year at It’s All Dead is another tired diatribe about the sad state of post-hardcore. You get it – I’m an old, jaded elitist who yearns for the days when bands like Glassjaw and At the Drive-In set fire to the genre and challenged listeners with emotive songs brimming with purpose and meaning.

“Those days are gone. Get over it,” you might say. You’re right.

Therefore, for at least today, I’ll approach the conversation with an open mind. Honestly, it would be totally unreasonable of me to take aim at Mind Games, the sophomore full-length from Palisades, a polarizing band that I kinda-sorta don’t mind all that much.

Their debut, Outcasts, was their proper introduction, initiating listeners with their own brand of self-labeled “electronic hardcore music.” You hear those words and have a good idea of what you’re getting. The band’s music is a re-tooled and upgraded version of Attack Attack! and early Breathe Carolina. It’s full of Drop D breakdowns that are backed with spastic synthesizers and it’s polished into a poppy sheen.

Where their debut had trouble finding a voice, bouncing from club bangers (“High & Low”) to metalcore stompers (“Your Disease”) to pop-punk-infused anthems (“Outcasts”), Mind Games blends it all into a swirling cocktail. Instead of choosing a side of the fence, Palisades have elected to knock it down, for better or for worse. Individual songs now feature flashy electronics, crushing breakdowns and soaring choruses all heard within the span of a minute.

If this sounds like something you’ve heard before, you wouldn’t be totally wrong. The difference is that Palisades seem to have the chops to pull it off better than most of their peers, even if it’s not quite distinctive enough to push them over the top. Mind Games isn’t going to change the game, but it at least gets them a seat at the ballpark.

The band was wise to utilize bassist Brandon Sidney’s vocals much more this time around, as his smooth delivery compliments the bitter bite of Louis Miceli. Palisades also earn brownie points for avoiding the predictable production of Cameron Mizell by electing to go with Erik Ron. Finally, they also deserve credit for owning who they are. It’s clear that the band could have ridden the “High & Low” train to synth-pop town and created a ghastly imitation of top 40’s worst. But they didn’t, choosing instead to hone in on their strengths, and they’re all the better for it.

Before the gushing gets out of hand, it’s worth noting that you’re not going to take much away from Mind Games in the form of substance. The album is about shrugging off the haters and hitting on girls. Don’t pay too much mind when Miceli delivers a chorus of “Thought you were crazy in love / But you were just crazy, oh, oh” on the album’s title track “ – just shake it off and keep nodding your head to the pulsing beat.

Similarly, “Bad Girls” is an atrocity of Ronnie Radke proportions. Does throwing chopped samples of “Got em all wet” into a song’s transitions get the ladies all hot and bothered these days? It makes the band hard to take serious when they try their hand at sincerity on the pleading “Come Over and Watch Netflix”, a dance track that isn’t all that endearing in the first place.

Palisades are at their best when they’re at their heaviest. “Whatever You Want it to Be” is a crushing display of syrupy modern metalcore as a guilty pleasure. The song features multiple gun cocking samples, a wild use of electronics, the blistering screams of Miceli, and a massive chorus. It’s fun as hell. “People Like Us” follows closely in its footsteps, featuring guest vocals from Garret Rapp of The Color Morale. “True Blood” is a fierce and catchy rocker – one that will have you head banging in no time.

If you’re a fan of modern metalcore, you’re going to blast this album with the windows down this summer, which is just what the band is going for. They don’t have the musical range of a band like Issues and haven’t yet showed the songwriting chops of a band like The Word Alive, which is to say that they’re not currently frontrunners to be the face of the genre or explore new ground. They’re a band that’s comfortable excelling at their own niche.

If you really wanted to, you could point the finger at Mind Games and accuse it of being everything that’s wrong with heavy music today. But maybe that approach isn’t really getting us anywhere. If you want to be challenged and excited by your metalcore, throw on some Architects or Bring Me the Horizon. If you want to nod your head and sing along in your car with your friends, give Mind Games a try. You might even crack a smile and have a good time. Even an old curmudgeon like me can get down with that.

3/5

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

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