Review: Palisades – Palisades

47_1_palisades_high

Whether you’re a national restaurant chain, a digital news outlet or an indie rock band, re-branding can be a gamble. Do you risk alienating your core consumer base in favor of a new identity? In the best-case scenario, these kinds of shifts can not only enlarge an entity’s platform while maintaining their original audience, but also provide an honest representation of the brand in its current form. Such appears to be the case with Palisades.

The New Jersey rock act spent their first two releases on Rise Records attempting to force fit their electronicore leanings into a rather insincere and cluttered package. By the time the unnecessarily-salacious Mind Games dropped in 2015, it was hard to view Palisades as anything other than a gimmicky party favor, even as the band showed signs of real talent.

You can but Palisades on iTunes.

You can but Palisades on iTunes.

After one listen, it’s no surprise that the band decided to self-title their latest release. Palisades is not only their best record, it’s a welcome left turn for a band once affixed on bad girls and party fouls. Along with a complete sonic overhaul, Palisades feels, dare we say, thematically genuine.

The EDM influences and siren-y synthesizers that were once the band’s calling card are now completely absent. Instead, Palisades pulses ahead as a straightforward rock record with traces of nu metal and post-hardcore sprinkled in. The production is slick and airtight with crunchy guitar tones and rattling drum patterns pushing the tracks forward without the needless, clunky breakdowns the band relied on in the past. The back-half of “Hard Feelings” even finds Xavier Adames busting out a quick guitar solo that melds nicely into the mix.

In keeping with the upgrades, vocalist Louis Miceli stands out as most improved. With former bass player and backing vocalist Brandon Reese out of the equation, Palisades now rely solely on Miceli to deliver – and that he does, channeling his inner Chester Bennington throughout the record. On Palisades, his voice transforms to a powerful roar, displacing his various tedious deliveries from past albums. Miceli still finds time to scream on this album, but those moments are far more reserved and natural.

With a much more credible sound firmly in place, the band have allowed themselves to expand their subject matter beyond the banal as well. Surprising opener “Aggression” tackles gun violence with Miceli belting a chorus of, “Can we disarm the loaded gun? / Can we survive what we’ve become? / The hate is slowly choking me / American aggression for free”. It’s a stark progression for a band that sprinkled gun cocking samples onto their previous album.

All of these improvements might merit little discussion if the songs weren’t all that good – but they are. They’re really, really good. “Better Chemicals” is a diverse rocker with a pounding chorus that gets stuck in your brain, while a new and improved version of last year’s “Fall” feels like the best evolution of the band, even tastefully implementing programming elements without ramming them down your throat. New bassist Brandon Elgar joins Miceli during the song’s re-worked bridge, resulting in an explosive moment that may top anything the band has ever done.

“Memories” grooves hard as a track that highlights Palisades’ newly discovered nu metal bent with a delightful verse-chorus transition. And speaking of hooks, “Hard Feelings” is a triumph. The decadent melody behind Miceli’s simple lines of, “I’ve got some hard feelings I’m working through / I’ve got some hard feelings I could put on you” blends perfectly with the grinding guitars that power this energetic track ahead.

You wouldn’t have trouble getting almost any song on Palisades stuck in your head, but this time around, you don’t have to feel guilty about it. Sure, a few of the tracks start to blend together upon repeated listens, and save for some scattered candid moments, Miceli’s lyrics still have room to grow, but overall, the album is a forceful step forward for a band that seemed to be flirting with irrelevancy.

If this self-titled venture is the definitive sound that the band has proclaimed it to be, Palisades very well could have found a niche that might propel the band to new heights. Whatever the case may be, the band is clearly coming into their own at just the right time, making this is one re-branding effort that was well worth the risk.

4/5

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.

Advertisements

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.

Palisades to Release “Mind Games” on January 13

palisades

New Jersey post-hardcore outfit Palisades have announced the upcoming release of their second full-length album, Mind Games. The album is set to be released on January 13, 2015, on Rise Records. The band dropped their debut album, Outcasts, in early 2013 and have made a name for themselves with their blend of electronic hardcore. You can see the album artwork and track listing below:

palisades_cover_art

Track listing:

  1. Player Hater’s Ball feat. blackbear
  2. No Chaser
  3. Bad Girls
  4. Mind Games feat. Champs
  5. Whatever You Want It To Be
  6. Afraid
  7. People Like Us feat. Garret Rapp
  8. Like A Drug
  9. True Blood
  10. Come Over And Watch Netflix

Mind Games is currently available for preorder.

Posted by Kiel Hauck