Album Review: Vanishing Life – “Surveillance”
Before I get ahead of myself with this review, I should point out that as a massive fan of Rival Schools, Quicksand, and …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, so I was very excited about the potential sound that Vanishing Life could produce. For the most part I was pretty happy with what we got, even if it wasn’t anything surprising or unexpected. Right from the off, Surveillance is a heady mix of traditional hardcore with some grunge and metal traits that filter through in certain specific songs, but the sound is very distinctive.
The album opens with Realist, which is a fast paced, heavy number with punk and hardcore roots, before we switch straight to Outlier, which would not have been out of place on a Quicksand album. The first half of the album continues with 17, which is a short instrumental filler, and 8 Pointed Star which has a stripped back Rival Schools sound to it, and Painter which again is a mixture of sounds that evoke the spirit of early 90s hardcore. This is all very good up to the point, but it’s not great, and it feels a bit flat considering what it could be.
However, the second half of the album marks a significant ramp up with Pretty Ruined, which is easily one of the stand out tracks on the album, immediately followed by Exile which is almost as good, and probably the punchiest, most energetic track on the whole record. Image is again a very heavy, fast track that is reminiscent of the sort of riffs Foo Fighters were producing in and around the All My Life era. However, the biggest highlight for me is the track named after the band themselves, Vanishing Life, which is a distortion-heavy affair with fast punk riffs.
I hesitate to use the term “supergroup”, if nothing else because it’s frequently overused label that tends to create an expectation for that band which they can never live up to. A band really should be more than the sum of its parts. However, the sheer quality of the musicians here has a bearing on the quality of the album. Walter Schreifels vocals have a very specific sound, but they fit snugly into what the band create, while Autry Fulbright II is amazing as always on bass. However, it’s the additions of Jaime Miller of Bad Religion on drums and Zach Blair of Rise Against on guitar who add a sense of bite and menace to proceedings. It’s a raw, visceral sound that has roots in 90’s punk and hardcore, but also a more modern guitar driven sound that feels very contemporary.
All in all Surveillance is a very enjoyable album, that is good throughout, and great in patches. If you enjoyed the bands that the members were previously involved in, you will likely enjoy this, but even if you're not a fan this is definitely worth a look.