A Line in the Sand, American Arson’s debut full-length release, continues the narrative they began three EPs ago. With the release, this Detroit duo has proven they’re still not short on power and vision. Between Evan Baker’s robust vocals, Jesse Gentry’s relentless energy on the drums, and stacks and stacks of guitar amps, this record is driven by talent and the band’s purpose comes across effectively and poignantly.
The tough question for hardcore bands these days hangs heavy: What makes you stand out? For American Arson, the question can be answered a number of ways, so take your pick: Is it their minimalistic lineup? An authentic tribute to many genres of influence? The unique interplay between introspective lyrics and punk rock delivery? Together, these traits blend into a well-rounded, dynamic, and thoughtful full-length release.
Baker’s vocal versatility keeps the listener from boring, adjusting the scope of this record from moment to moment. It’s risky business touching on too many genres in one album for fear of losing your own unique entity; however, the way American Arson weaves in and out of their influences is natural and showcases the breadth of their vision.
A wide-reaching alternative vision it is. It starts with a focus on edgy electronic pop/rock on “The End,” expanding to traditional punk rock and post-hardcore elements on “Drop Your Daggers” and “Forever.” The lens wanders to spoken word in “Let Conviction Grow” and zooms back into pure rock n’ roll on their single, “Unbreakable.” And all the while, Gentry’s expressive drumming and blended harmonies tie it all together effortlessly.
While it’s clear that Baker’s gritty vocals are the apex of his skill set and one of the bands highlighting qualities, his prowess is paired with guitar chops and ear for tone is evident in the crunchy Orange sound in “Drop Your Daggers” and the low, trudging riffs during “The Water Will Rise” brings the album new layers of intensity. There is a more expansive skillset that’s not showcased here. Paired with the influence, it’s clear American Arson has more to mine.
The outlier of the album is the final track, “The King is Alive,” which does an effective job driving the record home as The Final Track with rolling cadences and organ synth pads that fill the space between the worshipful gang vocals, melodies, spoken word, and major tonality. While it’s bursting with freedom and celebration, it would have made more sense in the context of the whole album with even a short instrumental track that transitions the sound.
With a clear message of love, unity, and ultimate victory, A Line in the Sand is an anthem of hope and a cry for light in a world built with shadows. American Arson may be just a duo, but their ability for impact doesn’t get short-changed on this debut. Despite its expansive influences, the band still has room to grow into their skillset and sharpen some edges, something that will no doubt come with songwriting maturity. It’s a record that proves the strength of any art starts with the embers and grows with all the voices that join in on the other end.