Sainthood Reps - Headswell
Release Date: October 22, 2013
Record Label: No Sleep
Yes, Sainthood Reps are based out of Long Island, New York and guitarist Derrick Sherman is also a touring member for Brand New. So it’s unsurprising that Sainthood Reps are sometimes connected to (arguably) the scene’s most popular band. Yet, the attention was barely there for the band’s debut album, Monoculture. Now backed by No Sleep Records, Sainthood Reps have unleashed Headswell - a ten track LP that flexes even more muscle than its predecessor. Undoubtedly, this record will draw comparisons to the latest outputs from Brand New and friends, which will hopefully draw the attention of genre fans, as Headswell is bolder, more intricate, and more powerful than whichever indie post-hardcore Long Island record it’s being likened to.
Headswell is brimming with attitude throughout. Opening track “Shelter” is straight from the garage, as flithy riffs resonate well with Francesco Montesanto frantic shouts. The song's hazy and grungy pyrotechnics build off what Monoculture created while incorporating a hook that’ll stick with you. But while the opener sets you up for an album that’s full of 90’s alt-grunge theatrics, the rest of Headswell has different plans for your ears. “Desert Song” sports cleaner guitar riffs amongst its disheveled instrumentals; its chorus featuring a straining Montesanto exclaiming, “I was raised to start a war/I never hurt a soul before.” The tension builds and builds until it reaches its cathartic climax - an absolutely devastating breakdown. Headswell ebbs and flows throughout its ten tracks, juxtaposing gentler moments within the album’s more abrasive nature.
It’s an album whose internal conflict is raging inside throughout - Montesanto’s angst-filled lyrics face off against Sherman’s melodic structures. There are multiple “calm before storm’s” here - “The Last Place I Left You” swarms the listener with an uneasy ambiance, as if some sort of impending doom is on its way. And once that doom arrives, an avalanche of discordant noises collapses on the listener. Bradley Cordaro unfurls some of the dirtiest percussion you’ll hear in 2013 on “Quitter,” a stunner of a track that’ll bring you to your knees. The eerie build-up features Montesanto slightly cracking amongst lingering, moody deliberations before deceiving you into a crushing display of dissonant guitar riffs. You can tell the band has worshipped at the altar of Fugazi and The Smashing Pumpkins - the way Shermon’s guitar tones howl and linger throughout Headswell allows the band to hop around different areas of the rock and roll spectrum. The fiery “Fall” sways between soft finishes and dreamy atmospherics while “Drone” bludgeons you with fuzzy power chords.
Sonically, not many albums can accomplish what Sainthood Reps have with Headswell - keeping its sense of chaos and intensity while still releasing a record that’s polished and refined. Most of this is due to Mike Sapone’s production (with a little Will Yip thrown in). As he’s shown in the past with his work with Brand New (there’s that comparison again), Sapone understands how to maintain that gritty rock sound while still making it sound massive and arena-ready. A prime example being the album’s title track - its mixture of melody and calamity will both ignite mosh pits as well as lighters. If I had only one opportunity to convert someone into a Sainthood Reps fans, this would be the song I’d play them. If I had two chances, I’d then play that person the heart-wrenching “Breath Worth Breathing” - Headswell’s softest yet most emotional moment. The song will undoubtedly capture the attention of Brand New fans, as the song feels like a distant cousin to the band’s Deja Entendu closer, “Play Crack The Sky.” Montesanto’s vocals are painstakingly personal here as he’s about to break while screaming the words during the second verse. On an album full of emotional roller coasters, Headswell returns to the turnstile quiet but resilient, one last calm before the inevitable storm of LP3.
Just like Balance & Composure did with their new sensational record, this guys stepped up their game. I really enjoyed back in time Monoculture, but this album is something unique and magnificent. One of my favorite releases of the year.