On their Twitter biography, Massachusetts’s Aviator describes themselves as “too mad for the emo gig, too sad for the hardcore gig”. In the heat of the “emo revival”, as well as the recent hardcore renaissance at the hands of La Dispute and Touché Amoré, among others, it can be hard for bands from either side to separate themselves as the cream of the crop. Mixing the two styles can be risky business too, as it takes a delicate balance the two in order to pull it off. Aviator is the exception is to the rule. With their debut LP, Head in the Clouds, Hands in the Dirt, Aviator has joined the ranks of the emotional hardcore elite.
Formed in 2009, the band has released a series of EPs, splits, and individual songs in their five years together. Head in the Clouds, Hands in the Dirt may be the band’s first full-length studio album, but it sounds like the work of a well-established group. Listeners will find shades of fellow Massachusetts brethren Defeater in the predominantly yelled vocals. The album also features elements of what the band calls “progressive” hardcore, with occasional guitar lulls and instrumental work in the vein of Old Grey, though not necessarily as post-rock in scope, like on the opener “Pipe Dreams”.
That being said, the record is as aggressive as you can expect from a hardcore record. The third song, “There Was a Light (It Went Out)” has a strong instrumental backbone, as it waxes and wanes through TJ Copello’s repeated screams for inner salvation. A few songs later, you’ll find yourself at two of the most intense tracks on the record, “Forms (les feuilles mortes)” and “I Hold Myself in Contempt”. The straight screaming attack of the latter combined with unraveling hardcore and progressive pieces that comprise the former complement each other well and show us the darker side of the group.
While Aviator is undoubtedly a hardcore band, the band’s “emotional hardcore” characterization holds true on this record. The album’s second track, “Weathervane”, talks about finding a better life, as Copello’s yells compliment trudging chants of the speaker’s desire to “leave it all behind and hope my past won’t try to chase”. On the album’s final track, “Fever Dreams”, the band lays it all out in the open. From the punishing instrumentals, to the thin whispers of regret and screams of despair from life’s difficulties, the closer is a powerful and fitting conclusion to the record that shows us all sides of Aviator.
In a way, Head in the Clouds, Hands in the Dirt is a very appropriate name for this record. Its juxtaposition is evident in the band’s music, rooted in hardcore, but with clear emo qualities. The band pulls out all the stops on this one, combining spot-on screamed vocals, a balanced instrumental attack and emotional lyrics, Aviator has crafted a great record, to say the very least. They may be a younger band, but if this record is any indication, Aviator has a very bright future ahead of them.