In the current era of throwback-genre popularity, the emergence of grungy-’90s is welcome. At one point, though, it gave way to radio rock and, what would dominate the 2000s, emo. The millennial generation spent a lot of angst-ridden years pounding Underoath, and they’re the ones making this music thrive. Russian Circles and Explosions in the Sky were hailed as champions of a new heavy instrumental genre, rooted in the spaces of emo but abandoning the frayed ends of screaming. (The heavy vocals were replaced with something no one could argue with: a weeping guitar.)
Comrades isn’t all instrumental, but they’ve forged a new way on Safekeeper. But vocalist and bassist Laura McElroy (whose husband, Joe, is the band’s guitarist) uses her voice more as an instrument than a performance. The effect is chilling and demanding. Add in the even-more sparse screams of drummer Ben Trussell, and Comrades have put together a fantastic journey on Safekeeper.
The most important characterization of the album is that if you’re into melody, immediate variation or can’t hold a stare very long, don’t buy this record. (Well, buy it to support the band, but you get the point.) It takes time to develop, and if you’re willing to put in the effort, it returns. It’s like reading a lengthy book with a good ending, working out or spending time cooking a meal at home. You don’t want to do it every night; sometimes pizza is the perfect choice. Just know that when you do give it a spin, it’s worth your time. There is complexity in their layering, and, combined with the band’s ear for musical direction, they can craft a movie scene in you head after a five-minute song. To step it up even a little more, the tracks vary enough to maintain their individuality, but maintain a cohesive power as a full set.
The band travels the country in an old Volkswagen, and if you’re east of the Mississippi, there’s a good chance they’ll be playing near you soon.