Loma Prieta have been a cornerstone of the screamo scene for what seems like forever. Since their beginnings in the early aughts, they have constantly spearheaded new possibilities for the genre. Whether it was taking punk sensibilities and distorting them (Our LP Is Your EP, Last City), new features of dissonance and harshness (Dark Mountain, Life/Less), or new levels of heaviness paired with breathtaking amounts of melody (I.V., Self Portrait), it has been their own. They have always had this way of doing things where it felt like they were letting us in on a secret that could completely change how we saw punk, screamo, post-hardcore, emoviolence, and more beyond it.
After nearly 20 years as a band, the Bay Area quartet have entrusted us with the next secret, Last. Their sixth full length album, and third recorded with Jack Shirley at Atomic Garden, there is a familiarity to the sound for those who have listened to the past few Loma Prieta records. The same roots are there: the intense guitar crescendos, the distorted vocals and punchy drums, but the distinct similarity ends there.
Last is immediately a completely different beast from Loma’s back catalog, with a minimal opening track “Sequitur” that bubbles with small, clean ambient sound design before opening up. When it transitions into “NSAIDs,” you can immediately see the differences in production choices highlighted by spoken word verses, spacious piano treatment, swirling guitars, and blistering drum work.
The instruments are much rounder and more approachable in my opinion. And the fuzziness of the vocals is less crackly and much more like the feeling of slightly moving out of focus. With this, the record is immediately attention grabbing, as if trying to pull us along into a different part of their world that we can’t see clearly just yet.
“Dose” progresses with forward momentum, leaning on some of the structures they built previously with their shouting vocal and more classic post-hardcore approach. For me, the bass really shines through on this one, propelling the track forward with nearly danceable movement.
After that we get “Sunlight,” the track Loma released as a single last summer. This song feels like the perfect bridge between Self Portrait and Last, which makes sense since it was likely the first song for the record. It’s short, stark, and stunning. All cylinders firing at full force.
“Fire In Black & White” is a track that stuns me. Throughout its progression, it feels like a menagerie being rotated to show us every side of the Loma Prieta sound. Each instrument takes a turn shining at the front and center of the structure as it continues to blast higher and higher. “One-off (Part 2)” follows and meshes all those individual pieces together and fleshes out the most distinctly screamo track on the record.
After this we are folded into “Circular Saw” with a dizzyingly melodic start. An actually circular guitar lead twirling us around before pushing us over on a dime, immediately switching gears to one of the most punishing sections of the record, depicting the harmful nature of capitalist structure and the situation most of us find ourselves in where there is no care or understanding given by money or business.
Deep in the record, we receive the most ambitious track the group have done to date with “Symbios.” Over the course of its five-and-a-half minutes, it harnesses some of the residual energy from the previous track before drifting into an absolutely massive rock song, complete with singing vocals and guitar approaches that border on shoegaze territory. It’s a dreamlike state depicting the nightmare of complacency within a parasitic relationship to others and the self.
Directly following that is probably my favorite start on the album in “Dreamlessnessless,” a few sparse drum hits paired with guitar strums that hightail it off into a blast beat section that absolutely blows me away every time. As the song progresses, the energy rises before dipping away almost entirely into a soft moment of respite until it punches back in for a final blow.
The next song, “Glare,” almost feels like a companion to “NSAIDs,” nearly bookending the record with similar spoken word approaches. However, “Glare” takes that composition farther and marries it with the harsher part of the record with ease. We still get ambient sounds and glimmers in the background as it churns through the feelings of losing light in your life.
“LLC” is our closing track and it has a ton to live up to with what comes before it, but instead of trying to outdo the rest of the record, it simply does something a little different. The structure of this song almost feels like a post-punk track as it constructs the most direct structure of Last.
Through the powerful displays on Last, it seems as though Loma Prieta’s secret is that there can still be severity in softness. And while it’s not for certain whether or not this is actually their last, it does remind us with all its changes and messages that nothing lasts forever, in good ways and bad.
Watch their video for “Glare” below, and scroll to see their release tour dates that start TONIGHT!
Friday, June 30 – Oakland, CA @ Ivy Room
Saturday, July 1 – Chicago, IL @ Beat Kitchen #
Sunday, July 2 – Detroit, MI @ Sanctuary #
Monday, July 3 – Grand Rapids, MI @ Pyramid Scheme #
Tuesday, July 4 – Toronto, ON @ Garrison #
Wednesday, July 5 – Montreal, QC @ Bar Le Ritz PDB #
Thursday, July 6 – Pawtucket, RI @ Machines With Magnets #
Friday, July 7 – Brooklyn, NY @ TV Eye #
Saturday, July 8 – Philadelphia, PA @ Milk Boy *
Sunday, July 9 – Baltimore, MD @ Metro Gallery *
Monday, July 10 – Cleveland, OH @ No Class *
# with Frail Body
* with Eyelet