One of the reasons why music is such a vital creative force in our society is because of its unique ability to convey, through melody and words, everything that we find difficult to express – the challenging, the confronting, even the taboo. For me, there is no greater artistic triumph than when a band can delve into important, complex subject matter with maturity while still delivering incredibly catchy, memorable tracks. And this is exactly what Melbourne alt-rock superstars Belle Haven have achieved with their upcoming EP ‘Time Changes Nothing’, which releases on April 16th through Greyscale Records.
This dynamic, punchy release takes a very frank and unflinchingly honest look at electromagnetic treatment, a rather controversial method of psychiatric treatment for mental illness, based on vocalist David De La Hoz’s firsthand experience of receiving the treatment for his own mental health issues. The EP blitzes through five taut, tight tracks, clocking a total runtime of barely 18 minutes. Yet through the polished songwriting and crystalline production demonstrated in each track, the entire release conveys such a depth of emotion that I am left both stunned and wanting more.
Opening track, and recent single Take Your Pill is an energetic yet arresting number that launches us right into the heart of the subject matter. Poignantly melodic lead guitar hooks, sharp riffs and driving drums set the scene for De La Hoz’s compelling and passionate tenor vocals that waste no time in expressing his rage at the inherent dehumanisation in the treatment he experienced – “Sit down, take your pill, I need to know if you’re ready”. This track treats us to one of the catchiest choruses I have ever heard; honestly, I’ll be surprised if you’re not humming this for days after listening to it. The addition of harsh vocals and breakdown riffs is very effective in bolstering the intensity of particularly climactic sections in the track – “I am electromagnetic” “My waking comatose”. This track melds the hard rock flavours of Anberlin and Chevelle with the aggression of Architects in its heavier moments, and I’m loving it. We’ve got off to a blistering start indeed!
Mistakes follows Take Your Pill, beginning with a subdued bass groove that soon kicks into a lively chorus that showcases the talents and versatility of De La Hoz, who belts out a vocally acrobatic chorus melody as comfortably and effectively as he sings a quieter, more intimate bridge section in honeyed tones. Guitarists Christopher Vernon and David Marinakis are off chops in this track too, their intricate melodic duet a wonderful counterpoint to the soaring vocals.
Then we are sonically smacked in the face with Nobody Likes a Hospital, the first single from this EP that was released a couple of months ago to rave reception – and it’s easy to see why. Catchy guitar riffs followed by even catchier choruses build a very accessible backdrop that underscores the confronting lyrical themes of this track. It’s a heartbreaking firsthand account of one sufferer’s experience of psychological rock bottom, and all the thoughts that come with that – “There’s no silver lining, so what’s the point in even trying / You’re not in this hole I fell into / You don’t know what I’m going through”. Agonised harsh vocals and chunky bass lines really hammer home the heaviness – both musically and figuratively – of this baller track. This is such an important track, and I’m so glad it exists – this song sure is going to be a silver lining for someone, somewhere.
Hopeless. Empty. Lonely. Painful. is next up, which unlike its name suggests, is actually a touching ballad that juxtaposes empowering messages of hope with savagely self-aware indictments of our darkest sides. The passionate chorus is powered forward by brief rays of light – “This isn’t me, just giving up / This is me knowing when enough is enough” – which contrasts with the intimate yet brutal bridge – “There’s a self-destructive, suicidal narcissist in me”. There’s a sweet round of repeated “I don’t want to feel like this anymore / I don’t want to be like this anymore” that builds in intensity towards the gorgeous final chorus. Suddenly, we’ve arrived at the final track on the EP, the defiant Stranger Memories. Here we’ve really turned a corner, with the victim becoming the victor – “The problem isn’t me, it’s you”. This track gives the EP the blazing send-off it deserves, with harsh vocal chants and guttural, ferocious riffs bringing the heavy in a final hurricane of rage and rebellion.
I’m now ashamed to admit that I hadn’t ever listened to Belle Haven before reviewing this EP, because this beautiful release has instantly turned me into a bona fide mega-fan. ‘Time Changes Nothing’ showcases truly timeless music that makes a bold and brave statement on one of the many issues that we as a society really should be talking more openly about. This phenomenal band is headed for the big time and fast with this special release, and I for one am so grateful for music like this.
You can pre-order ‘Time Changes Nothing’ here.
Follow Belle Haven:
With thanks to Collision Course