When it comes to bands that it is worth moulding your sound after, At the Drive-In are pretty high on my list. Naturally, I was stoked when they were the first band that came to mind while listening to Past Haunts‘ third and latest EP Afterthoughts. The opening track, “Ether,” is slower and contains an intro that is closer to post-rock than anything At the Drive-In ever did. It shows an appreciation for not only post-hardcore but its offshoots as well.
After a few listens, the At the Drive-In comparison lessens, revealing that the strongest link to Past Haunts’ sound is the very Cedric Bixler-esque vocals provided by lead vocalist and bassist Brett-Allen White. “Ether’s” closing instrumental break incorporates the ferocity of contemporary post-hardcore outfit Touche Amore and a lead guitar riff that takes on the moody melodic quality often found in songs by Brand New.
“Questions” starts with a delicate and haunting piano part and synthetic string section, creating a bit of sonic diversity but forty-three seconds in it kicks back into another riff reminiscent of Touche Amore. It then lightens up again shortly after. The lighter sections draw inspiration from the gentler and math-rock inspired end of the Emo spectrum (AKA lots of string tapping). Unfortunately, this song highlights the main difference between Past Haunts and the sort of bands which they draw inspiration from: the quality of the lyrics. While certainly ripe with angst and catharsis, there is nothing poetic or tactful about their delivery. The emotions and their source are plainly laid out, like excerpts from a teenager’s journal.
“Bonfire” opens with an acapella part that has a melody and vocal tone reminiscent of nu-metal and this tone persists for about a minute even after the music kicks in. It quickly transitions, however, back into the post-hardcore sound found in the other songs on this record. Besides an increased melodic quality in the vocals, there’s little that distinguishes this song from the others, and that is a perfect metaphor for this EP’s biggest problem. No new ground is tread here, and Past Haunts fails to imitate their influences in a way that is as satisfying as the source material.
By all accounts, I should’ve loved this EP. Past Haunts draws plenty from one of my favourite genres and the bands who helped pioneer and revive it. However, as rough as Brett-Allen’s voice gets, it somehow lacks the conviction and wild abandon that the music which it sits atop requires.
Written by Brian Charles Clarke
*edited by Danielle Kenedy