Album Review: Endless Heights - 'Dream Strong'

13 December 2011 | 5:34 pm | Staff Writer
Originally Appeared In

An astounding accomplishment for the Sydney hardcore scene.

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2011 has been a massive year for melodic hardcore, with impeccable releases from heavyweights like Title Fight, Touche Amore and Defeater propelling the genre to the forefront of the alternative music scene. Sydney five-piece Endless Heights are helping to bring these amazing twelve months to a close with their latest EP Dream Strong’, a six-track effort that irons out the rough-handed, cheap production values that hindered their previous release. With the unwanted grit of 2010’s Prologue sanded off, the band’s true potential is allowed to emerge, glimmering with intense emotionality and poignant, awe-inspiring guitar work that occasionally diverts seamlessly into a barrage of heavy-hitting chords set against powerful beatdown and twostep drumbeats. The varying dynamics and emotional scope of the EP will please a diverse range of hardcore fans.

Endless Heights are a band that has experienced a dramatic transformation in recent years. Beginning their tenure in the local Sydney scene as Your Ghost Is A Gift, the band chose to rechristen themselves, dramatically shifting away from the mosh-friendly, heavier brand of melodic hardcore that brought them to prominence in the first place. Their latest EP solidifies this transition, although there are some elements of their music that remain relatively unchanged. First and foremost is the technique of frontman Joel Martorana, who still exercises a similar vocal delivery to the Prologue’ EP with his gruff, strained, mid-range tone that never quite escapes into a full-bodied scream. Heaviness is not the point of this release, a fact which is demonstrated by the increased reliance on rough-handed, gritty vocal melodies like on opening track ‘The Underestimate’. Martorana sings with a style that is extremely reminiscent of Title Fight and Daylight, adding a pleasing layer of melodic depth to the band’s music.

The band’s songwriting has attained astounding new heights on the EP, driven by exceptional guitar work and dynamic shifts within each song that keep the tracks sounding fresh and musically interesting. Every track sounds holistically accomplished, with a minute attention to detail that fleshes each song out to its full and most engaging potential. The end result is a release that is completely devoid of throwaway material, anchored by a consistent flow that gives coherency to the listening process. When tracks like ‘Echo strip themselves down to a bare skin of thrashy, low-end powerchords and pounding, explosive hardcore breakdowns, the transition is seamless and a natural expression of emotion that never appears forced or arbitrary. The EP is rarely content with dwelling on a single musical idea for too long, and breaks up the pacing of tracks like ‘Glass Hearts with energetic hardcore-punk drumbeats played at breakneck speed.

Paramount to the EP’s success is its stellar production values, provided by the studio prowess of Newcastle’s Mitta Norath and the industry experience of Alan Douches, whose credits include releases by Converge and Mastodon. Douches has polished the tracks down with a slick sheen that makes them both aesthetically pleasing and highly accessible to newer fans of the band, without compromising the raw, emotional poignancy that they are so effectively conveying. The mixing on the guitars is exceptional, giving the interlacing melodic phrases of title track Dream Strong’ a clear, crisp tone that becomes juxtaposed with the heavy-handed, driving chords and crunching riffs that reinforce the track. Occasionally, the guitars will lapse out into harmonised lead lines backed by subdued, sparse drumbeats that shift the emotional tones of the EP. These moments prove to be highlights of the release, adding an effective contrast that emphasises the impassioned intensity of the band.

Endless Heights have solidified their position within the Australian hardcore scene with the release of ‘Dream Strong’, a six-track EP reinforced by exceptional production values that moves far beyond anything the band has done before. This professionalism emphasises the musical accomplishment of the band’s songwriting on this release, juxtaposing soaring, angelic lead guitar phrases with driving chords and riffs that demonstrate large nods to the heavier sensibilities of the melodic hardcore genre. The end result is an EP bleeding with intense emotionality that never allows itself to stagnate.

1. The Underestimate

2. Echo

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3. Glass Hearts

4. Dream Strong

5. Free Spirit

6. Awake