I have a long and rich history with the band known as Comrades. With the trio being based in Virginia, I am but a stone’s throw away living in Pennsylvania myself. Due to our geographical locations, I have had the pleasure of seeing Comrades upwards of 20 times ranging from house shows in suburban neighborhoods to garages in the middle of the woods. Thinking over my relationship with the band and listening to their Facedown records debut, “Lone / Grey”, I am overcome with happiness and pride for the band I’ve watched tirelessly grind all of 8 years.
The first thing that jumps to the forefront when listening to “Lone / Grey” in contrast to any other of Comrades efforts is the focus on vocals. In the past, the band has often pushed any vocals way into the back of the mix; opting to not even use microphones while playing live. However, on this lush and powerful album, Lara and Ben’s vocal are front and center.
The dichotomy of dueling vocals allows for the harsh screams to contrast wonderfully against the beautifully crooned female vocals. Lead single of the album, Dark Tongues, Pt. II finds the band in full swing, displaying both sides of the vocal coin, while ever talented guitarist Joe McElroy toes the line between chunky aggressive riffs and delicately picked atmosphere. Fans of Beloved will find themselves picking their jaws off the floor during the final minute of the single as drummer, Ben Trussell channels his inner Joe Musten with blistering drum hits and throaty bellowing.
The real highlight of the album comes in the form of tracks 5 and 6, where Synchronous bleeds seamlessly into Shepherd’s Hymn. Starting off with the instrumental Synchronous, subtle electronics weave in and out between a steady drum beat and soft guitar picking before flowing into the breathy male vocals on Shepherd’s Hymn. Unlike the majority of the male vocals on the album, these start out clean at the forefront of a lush and breathtaking background of instrumentation before turning on a dime and adding grit back into the mix. All the aforementioned comes before Lara sings the closest thing to a chorus on the album as she hopefully croons,
“Bring me your anguish, I am the beam / The house of comfort and well kept dreams. Bring loss and bring me your care / I will restore and I will repair. Bring me your lonely nights of fear / Safety I am, I’ll always be near. Bring me your condemnation’s words / I’ll drown them in my love unearned”.
Tracks In the Whisper, In the Gale, Farewell, and Brother(Less) all go hand in hand; each showcasing the trickery the trio are capable of with frequently twisting and turning the listener’s attention with frantic fretboard finesse and guttural howls one moment while the next flexing their closed snare grooves backing delicate female vocals. These tracks are Comrades at their finest, feeling comfortable and familiar without letting things ever get stale.
That One Day We May Be the Same is a powerful closing track to this gem of an album. Only about 2:40 of the 6:09 duration of the track have vocals in them, trading back and forth between harsh and light vocals. However, the remaining 3:30 of the song are what truly shines. The instrumental section is not only beautiful as an outro of sorts, allowing the listener to digest the musical journey of “Lone / Grey”, but for a long time fan like myself, it allows a trip down memory lane. Over the remaining minutes of the track, I can not help but reminisce about all my times seeing the trio perform and even thinking back on their instrumental only phase as a band. Feelings and moments like that are to be cherished and something that not any album can bring you.
The only real drawback to the album is some of the predictability in the music, specifically early on in the record. With tracks like In the Whisper, In the Gale and Farewell, I felt as though I could predict when a vocal trade off was going to happen or when a tapping part was about to come in. While nonetheless impressive, I feel as though the group could benefit from having some songs that were all singing or all screaming in their arsenal just to mix things up.
A testament that hard work pays off, Comrades have created an album that transcends genres and stereotypes with “Lone / Grey”. This band is joy to follow and I implore you to check out some of their best work to date.