We are all a little afraid of the unknown, yet there’s a thrill in throwing caution to the winds precisely because you don’t know what will come next. With their upcoming release of debut full-length album ‘Future Lovers’, Melbourne’s genre-bending modern metallers Banks Arcade explore the paradoxical beauty and despair in the uncertainty we are all facing in this world today, where it is so easy to feel overwhelmed by what we cannot control.
Originally slated to be a concept album, ‘Future Lovers’ became the by-product of a seismic perspective shift within the band following the onslaught of the global pandemic. The album was recorded in an Auckland studio in a mere seven days after navigating lockdown challenges and band member illness, and far from sounding rushed, this whirlwind of activity has borne a thoughtful and well-paced anthology of music. Conveying a rather more fatalistic outlook than the title suggests, ‘Future Lovers’ is a compelling, reflective work that artfully synthesises metalcore aggression with pop sensibilities and hip-hop stylings. The end result is a sound that defies categorisation yet speaks to the universal human emotions we all feel in the chaos of life.
The ambient title track opens the album, awash with light piano and synths and frontman Joshua O’Donnell’s emotive tenor beckoning us forward to take the leap into the abyss with him – “Step into the dark, don’t be afraid” – and this leads seamlessly into the first banger of the album, Freaks. A slow, heavily downtuned guitar chug grounds us as we descend deeper and deeper into this darkly introspective world, with O’Donnell’s alternating rap verses and swaggering choruses giving the minimalistic track a SAINt JHN-esque futuristic urban edge. Then Fake Your Death hits us like a hurricane of Northlane meets The Prodigy electro-metalcore, ebbing and flowing between distorted, synth-driven passages with blood-curdling screams and more subdued melancholy hip-hop reminiscent of Post Malone. According to O’Donnell, this belter was the turning point for writing the whole album, with its innovative blend of musical styles representing a new and unique voice for the band going forward, and upon listening to the track, I think that checks out.
The rock’n’roll riffs of Smile follows in sudden contrast, and this is where Banks Arcade truly show their considerable skill in deftly interweaving several different musical genres into one taut track with a run time of well under four minutes. Here we get a good glimpse into the “party while the world burns” mentality running through the album with wry, sardonic observations in the chorus – “Keep that smile cause it won’t get better / we’re all too good at having fun”. The hypnotic Ether gives us a chance to breathe easy, with gentle spacey synths and subtle hip-hop beats soothing us for a moment. Then the sombre Spark pulls at the heartstrings with its themes of betrayal, addiction and self-loathing – “Don’t say I’m not good enough cause you showed it” – while showcasing some tastefully intricate drum work from James Feekes.
Next up we have one of the big singles from the album, Be Someone, and I’ve got chills – it’s like Sleep Token with a street edge. O’Donnell’s lush clean vocals are the star here, underscored by layers of oscillating ’80s synths and simple yet effective guitar chugs and lead melody, building to the climax at the end of the track where shoegaze guitars and gritty vocals duel for dominance. The upbeat Used lifts the mood with its rapid, catchy extended rap passages and unexpected breakdown that crashes in out of nowhere like a freight train. The band pulls off an impressive feat in System Failed with a chorus that juxtaposes boy band levels of pop in the vocal melody with ERRA-esque deep, dragging guitar riffs, and the execution is somehow as smooth as silk. This contrasts with the ghostly Trip, which takes us on a brief psychedelic turn into a deceptively soothing synthy fever dream.
The intensity is kicked right up in the final phase of the album with the pumping, pulpy hit single Don’t Start, and the influence of The Prodigy is highly evident here with its propulsive industrial edge, while powerful, insistent grooves from the rhythm section bring the metalcore heavies. Medicine pulls us back into a more contemplative place with its slow burn from soft hip-hop towards a wall of sound with sparkling synths, steady guitar chugs and agonised harsh vocals. Ending on an ambiguous note with the emo-tinged Wine – “Forget what happens next / There’s magic in regret / I’ve always seen the dark behind the sun / It makes me guess” – you really are left wondering what happens next in a quiet moment between yourself and your thoughts.
In “Future Lovers”, Banks Arcade have unleashed a uniquely creative, kaleidoscopic beast upon the heavy music world, showcasing an unpredictable yet highly accessible new sound that is entirely their own. The band’s first line of lyrics they ever wrote together was “I always wanted to make history”, and if the ambitious four-piece continue to innovate and create records at the standard of this one, that seems very likely to occur. NZ fans, Banks Arcade are back on home turf next week for the ‘Future Lovers’ tour with The Gloom In The Corner and Crooked Royals, and Aussie fans, don’t miss their live set on their mammoth 27-date Australian tour supporting In Hearts Wake in September and October – these guys are ones to watch for sure.
‘Future Lovers’ is released TODAY (July 29, 2022) via UNFD
GET YOUR COPY HERE
Connect with BANKS ARCADE
With thanks to Dallas Does PR