Sincerity Is an Easy Disguise in This Business
t's exciting to watch a band mature. Over its career, Evergreen Terrace has played covers, found a sound, released records, toured extensively, and refined its sound without losing its identity. In short, the band has done everything it's supposed to do, and Sincerity Is an Easy Disguise in This Business finds Evergreen Terrace at the top of its game.
2001's Burned Alive by Time held seeds of the band's current sound. Singer Andrew Carey's anguished screams topped metal-tinged hardcore punk, with occasional clean vocals by guitarist Craig Chaney. The songwriting was, to put it mildly, adventurous. Songs turned corners every 30 seconds, with no warning as to what would come next - double-time thrash parts, half-time breakdowns, and acoustic passages all stood equal chance of pouncing on listeners. "No Donnie, These Men Are Nihilist" (an awesomely Smiths-esque title) was the standout, with its out-of-nowhere breakdowns causing mayhem in moshpits. Like the album as a whole, though, the song was essentially a bunch of crushing riffs strung together.
A turning point was 2004's Writers Block, a collection of covers in which the band tackled chestnuts like U2's "Sunday Bloody Sunday," Tears for Fears' "Mad World," and even "Maniac" from Flashdance. The results were hit-or-miss, but the band undoubtedly learned from the masters, as Sincerity has impeccable songwriting. Riffs flow smoothly into each other, and breakdowns no longer drop on listeners' heads like buckets of water in doorways. The band may have lost its unpredictability, but it's now a well-oiled machine, with its tightest performances to date.
What's most noticeable about Sincerity is a newfound sense of melody. Chaney's clean vocals are mixed upfront, and are now hooks instead of embellishments. In fact, his vocals are so strong that they often eclipse the lead vocals. "New Friend Request" and "The Smell of Summer" could be Top 40 hits, if not for the hardcore vocals underneath. Screamed verses and clean choruses are common in so-called metalcore now, but Evergreen Terrace approaches them from a punk angle—think Bad Religion, not Fear Factory. That said, Sincerity is pretty darn metallic. The breakdowns in "Give 'Em the Sleeper" and "Gerald Did What" are worthy of Pantera, and the production is massive and clean, rivaling Andy Sneap's work with Arch Enemy and Killswitch Engage.
No hardcore review is complete without discussion of the lyrics, and here they're much improved from the high school diary-esque angst of before. The subject matter is mostly "you wronged me, and you will pay for it," but there are a few gems like "I Say You He Dead," a minute-long story of murder in revenge for domestic violence, and "The Smell of Summer," with its impressionistic images of finding a person dead. No hardcore record is complete without lyrics about hardcore, and "Tonight Is the Night We Ride" doesn't disappoint:
We built this lifeThis may be music by kids and for kids, but it's timeless stuff. At an Evergreen Terrace show, it's awe-inspiring to see a roomful of kids karate-chopping in unison, or to see an entire room turn into a circle pit, the kid's equivalent (if more chaotic and violent) of the adult's conga line. To slightly misquote the Who, "the kids are alright"—they're more grown up than you think.
We love this ride
Leave a stranger's house, drive through the day
Southbound 95, more broke than we came
4 more shots to the gut, let it burn
Go 'til we see the sun, let it burn
Any given night, crossing another state line
We know we can never die