Empty Black takes me back to a time when a record could legitimately floor me and not only keep my interest but hook me even further with each listen. Greyhaven’s powerful and punchy Equal Vision debut reminds me of those records I fell in love with back when CD stereos and lyric booklets helped you fall in love with music. Empty Black contains shades of Norma Jean, The Dillinger Escape Plan, The Bled, Underoath, Thrice, and Deftones, which is to say it’s spastic, elastic, but not quite full-on manic. Despite its ever-so-slight faltering moments, Greyhaven’s latest will go down as one of 2018’s best records because of how cohesive and emphatic the album comes across. The fact that this doesn’t appear to be the band’s ceiling means we should only expect better from this Kentucky group.
Most notably, Empty Black delves deep into the interpersonal, political, and intellectual to craft songs that hit at the head, heart, and soul. Much like those classics from the CD era, the careful concoction of lyrical ideas and smart repetition of visceral and fiery lines – a Norma Jean staple. My personal favorite is the last line uttered (well, roared, actually), “I gave myself to the earth; I am reborn in the ashes.” It’s a fitting coda to a record born from reflection and frustration about the importance of being present in the moment. (I wouldn’t fault you for appreciating the repeated shouted “Silence!” in “Mortality Rate”, a stunning southern rock jam.)
It’s important to note that never does Empty Black get bogged down by intellectualism or lyrical misuse – this is a record driven by efficient, deadly progressive metalcore that weaves in and out of various styles while not coming across as aimless. The opening two tracks’ laser-focus on technical, dissonant metalcore, a la Botch (and their disciples) are the record’s only real “weak” links. They feel simple and lack the passion and energy that the rest of the record has. More melody-driven numbers like “White Lighters” and the two-part “Echoes and Dust” series showcase the band’s energy can survive even at a more deliberate pace. Arguably the most daring musical moment is “Ten Dogs – Red Heaven” which sounds like letlive covering a long-lost White Pony B-side.
Greyhaven cover a lot of musical ground, and it makes me feel like Empty Black is the spiritual successor to He Is Legend’s near-classic debut, I Am Hollywood. No matter the sonic tweaks each song takes, the results are emphatically impressive. This is a band who has distilled all they love about heavy music and made it their own, while managing to say something through the noise. Though it’s not perfect, it’s got personality and power in spades, and it feels like Greyhaven should be the next big metalcore band. We talk of potential often about bands that have the ingredients for success but haven’t perfected their recipe; that’s the case here, but Empty Black is either so close to perfect or too damn fun to care about its blotches that the idea of something greater is tantalizing. Here’s hoping that comes to fruition.