Release Date: August 20, 2014
Studio: Self-produced and mastered by Daybreak Studio
Genre: Progressive Metal/Djent/Metalcore
For Fans of: Vildhjarta, Meshuggah, Periphery, Northlane, TesseracT, Textures, Volumes, Structures, Cloudkicker
Some of Chicagoland’s most beloved venues, such as the Chicago House of Blues, Bottom Lounge, Mojoes of Joliet and Austin’s Fuel Room, have provided a stage for hundreds of legendary metal, rock and hardcore acts to perform their high-voltage tunes. Fortunately, the suburbs of Chicago still have a handful of All Ages and all-genre venues for the up-and-coming but equally ambitious bands to try their hand at live performance.
One of the latest additions to the heavy music scene in suburban Chicago is Westgate, a five-piece progressive metal act, having recently released their debut EP, Revisions. The EP contains four tracks and showcases the band’s penchant for djent’s most recognizable pioneers and contemporaries, such as Meshuggah, Vildhjarta, Periphery and Textures.
Westgate starts the EP off slowly with title track “Revisions,” an eerie opening cut that makes heavy use of a haunting, mechanized drone in the background. Clean guitar eventually comes in, taking the first step to lead the full band into the song. The band’s choice to program the drums fits well with their style of music. “Revisions” does seem to carry on too long at the end however, perpetuating the drone that opened up the EP.
Second track “The Cartographer” is a full-bodied track. Guitarists Lucas Roehrborn and Jimmy Minogue and bassist Erich Kuerschner have nailed their tone on Revisions, with nary a riff sounding unbalanced or diluted. Drummer Jeff Jennings provides a genuinely satisfying amount of syncopated fills and percussive nuances that allow him to build a distinct voice on this EP.
Vocalist Jeff Linville’s screams are primarily moderate in timbre, and he structures his lyrical lines well, but his tone is noticeably lacking in maturation. Linville’s higher screams are a bit scratchy and his middle lines seem too throaty. It is evident that with continued effort and focus, Linville will have a very strong range and enhanced projection with his vocals.
On another note towards Linville’s lyrical lines, he is able to do what a number of other vocalists shrug off: the individualization of structuring when singing lyrics. Most vocalists would simply try to copy every aspect of their favorite vocalist and deny any other need to focus on their own craft as an artist.
The riffs the band writes fall somewhere beyond cookie-cutter but short of fully original. From the opening track, one can quickly discern some of the band’s most prevalent influences. The downtuned, palm muted riffing and rhythmic structuring of their songs composes the backbone of their sound.
Westgate’s clean guitar riffs and melodic inclinations are the highlight of their propensities, as these riffs allow the band’s authentic creative abilities to rise to the surface. “The Cartographer” features well-written clean guitar riffing both in the middle and to close the song out.
“To Dust” hears the band stretching out their energy further, featuring relentless chugging from guitarists Roehrborn and Minogue and a hearty collection of passages from drummer Jennings as he combines thick fills with double bass. Many of Jennings’ stylings and preferences on the kit are markedly jazz-based, adding a nice touch of variety to the Westgate sound. “To Dust” is a definite strong track on Revisions as the band pumps out precise and chunky patterns over melancholy and bittersweet leads.
Final song “Exist” is the longest on the EP at five minutes and 22 seconds. Westgate favors middle-ground tempos for their songs, and “Exist” is no exception. This track features the band’s most fully formed and most mentally-lingering clean guitar lines.
By the end of the EP, the listener is very much attached to the contemplative and ruminative side of Westgate, and the future looks bright for this band if they can push forward to stir up even more imaginative ideas for their music. The band has captured what most other djent bands can pull off, which is the breakdown and rhythmic sides of the genre. The melodic and introspective elements of their sound can be heard coming to light on Revisions, but the full potential of their sound in this capacity is largely still a sleeping giant.
Revisions is an audacious and commendable move from a young band in Chicagoland’s heavy music scene. For having only been around for about one year, there is plenty of room for the band’s expansion and exploration. The primary challenge that faces this quintet is the continual shaping of their sound. It is like a chunk of clay in a potter’s hand: formation of the art has begun and is on its way, but more work and attention must be given before the completed craft shines in a light of its own brilliance.
The band released Revisions for free through their Bandcamp, accessible below. Follow Westgate on Facebook for updates on shows and new music.
Underground Examinations is a series of Independent Music Reviews with the intention of giving new music a fair and appropriate opportunity to be enjoyed.
Review by Brad Johnson
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