When a band choose to disregard strict genre parameters, it’s primarily for one of two reasons. One being a plethora of influences motivating the artists to experiment with their own unique vision, while the other is the cursed case of identity which several groups must overcome. For Newcastle’s GroundCulture, it’s a little bit of both.
To name your full-length debut ‘How Well Do You Really Know Yourself?’ is an intriguing decision. It’s a question that has several obvious connotations, the most prevalent of which, on this album, is what type of band do we want to be? While most commonly referred to as post-hardcore, this pigeonholing is for efficiency’s sake more than anything. Yes, the band possess the vaguest elements of the genre, such as a juxtaposition between heavy and melodic sections, but that’s about where the comparisons end.
For starters, this is heavy. Almost every track is crammed to the brim with pummelling grooves while vocalist Roy Watson has a genuinely unnerving shriek, which imbues the material with a serious sense of passion. What’s so jarring is the repetitive switch to these clunky, uninspired almost radio-rock choruses, which dilute the established visceral rage completely.
The formula remains the same throughout the majority of the run-time. Each song rages into existence and builds searing momentum, only to be undercut by a bland chorus that honestly wouldn’t be out of place on an old wrestling game. Every Time I Die in the front, Three Days Grace in the back.
It’s a shame, as there are some truly great moments, like the brooding grunge slow burn of ‘Take My Breath Away’, or the tasteful electronic segments found on ‘Trauma Can Teach’, which are admittedly very reminiscent of the later work of Boston Manor. Unfortunately, they all meet their demise at the hands of yet another instantly forgettable hook, as if the band are almost required to shoehorn one into each and every track, no matter how ill-fitting.
Closing acoustic number, ‘1974’, is the saving grace. It’s a gorgeous piece that operates independently of all preceding material, with Watson flexing his impressive range, evoking a style quite similar to label mate John Floreani of Trophy Eyes.
‘How Well Do You Really Know Yourself?’ indicates that maybe GroundCulture don’t really know themselves all that well just yet, and their journey of self-discovery is only just beginning. For now, we’re left with a confident, well executed but poorly structured debut.