Take it back to the drawing board, boys, you're not done yet.
Before Storm The Sky were creating catchy and beautifully cinematic "death-pop" tracks with their solid 'Sin Will Find You' album (2016), the Melbourne group were of a much heavier, more typical metalcore sound. (See: 2013's 'Vigilance' EP and 2015's 'Permanence' LP). Before dropping 'Sin Will Find You' two years ago, however, the band parted ways with screamer Daniel Breen, who has now returned with a brand new band, Steadfast, who more or less stays within the heavier sound of Storm The Sky's past just with less production spit and polish.
Musically, when Steadfast aren’t offering up an average Southern-tinged metalcore/rock sound (‘Shallow Thoughts'), they’re aiming for middle-of-the-road hardcore ('Passion') and a dated melodic alternative rock approach that would've served them quite well a decade ago ('Pages from a Closed Book'). All up, after being in the pipeline for almost a year, there is barely anything to write home about from this five-track EP; the deep and clear growing pains of a first release ‘Inside The Mind Of Youth’ really is. Shit, even Storm The Sky’s earlier metalcore era was, while not amazing, a far cry better than this thing and you should probably just listen to that band instead.
Opener ‘Passion’ is quite obviously about Breen’s relationship with music, the local scene, getting the sack from Storm The Sky and him finding a purpose afterwards. Yet, ironically enough, ‘Passion’ doesn’t come off as that passionate or that endearing, neither lyrically nor sonically. Maybe that’s due to the lyrics, the band’s incredibly trite sound, or just the bland songwriting in general – I actually can’t decide which. ‘Fight Between The Eyes’, a song about battling depression and pushing through self-doubt, is a very stock-standard metalcore track. From the just not-quite-there growled vocals over the dime-a-dozen breakdown-chug-combo that rears its ugly head before the song’s final section, right down to its overall tone and pacing, it's all so painfully by the numbers.
Now, as for this song's topic, while there's nothing at all wrong with discussing mental health illness and other similar issues (I think most people encourage such discourse) the lyrics to these songs as well as the very title of this EP implies Steadfast were perhaps aiming for some kind of wider universal appeal; some deeper sense of sonder with listeners in trying to understand the "minds of youth" and what we all battle with on the inside. Yet they’ve really missed the mark. As it all just comes off so threadbare and the heart and soul (or lack thereof) of this EP's thematic core of mental illness just isn't moving, interesting or enjoyable to engage with either, sadly.
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Onto the EP’s third track and its lead single ‘Shallow Thoughts’, this song is just fucking laughable. (Watch the music video below for full comedic/cringe points). That's the best way I can put it. I mean, for a song whose refrain is “Take your shallow thoughts, like the ocean can you deepen them?” this is some fuckin' skin-deep stuff on all accounts. And the less said about it, the better. Next up, Steadfast show off some alternative/emo vibes with more melodic guitar lines, some actual sense of dynamic and cleaner, yet seemingly pitched vocals during ‘Pages from a Closed Book’. Which while not totally awful, just sounds like the shoe-in "feels" track some cookie-cutter band you’d find playing at Bang on any given Saturday night would have. (Funnily enough, after finishing this review, I actually found out that these guys played their first show Bang the other week following their debut EP’s release. There you go).
Until the chorus of closer ‘The Puppeteer’ arrives, Steadfast aim for a hardcore sound a la bands like Comeback Kid in terms of speed, riffs and vocals - just nowhere near as gripping or as memorable. As the song winds down into this odd, eerie soundscape of panned-out samples and low-end atmospherics, it suddenly and quite jarringly launches into a faster, melodic metalcore section that’s arguably the best part of the entire piece (despite feeling so tacked on), before another chugging groove section hits and the song wraps up with some fluttery keys and some “emotive” strings. Despite this track being a mash-up of many different musical elements and varying sections, ‘The Puppeteer’ is probably the best track on offer here, but that’s not saying much. Not much at all.
While the band members themselves seem to be contempt enough musicians in terms of performance, that doesn’t mean shit when it’s just all so generic sounding and when there's nothing instrumentally or vocally standing out from the rough. (Actually, Breen’s vocals actually seemed to have regressive in strength too). I’m also not sure what the creation and recording process of ‘Inside The Mind Of Youth’ was like, if the band didn’t have quite enough money, or if it’s just the sound they went for and settled on, but Jesus H. Christ, this release sounds like a mid-tier demo most of the time. I sincerely hope that the band paid Beau McKee and Kris Samos enough to record, mix and master this damned thing.
However, I feel that what annoys me most about this EP is that after being in Storm The Sky, Breen should know what works well, he should know what sounds good and he should know how to put together, at the very least, some decent songs. Which isn't the case here, making me think that perhaps Breen’s role in that band wasn’t that large or that crucial to begin with...
You know, I think the only reason I gave this Steadfast EP 20/100 was that scoring it any lower would probably deem me even more of a bully. And now that I think about it, the only real saving grace that 'Inside The Mind Of Youth' has is that it’s a five-track EP and not a full-length album. God help us when that day comes.
'Inside The Mind Of Youth' is out now.