After returning from hiatus with You Will Not Survive, The Saddest Landscape has by now completely re-emerged in a scene they were somehow always a part of. It’s kind of strange that they would pick up steam now considering most people, including myself, had never heard of the band in their earlier days. But with a new full-length in After the Lights, the quartet brings us something that emotes a spectrum of feelings in the wake of blasting guitars and a wall of drums. It only makes sense that The Saddest Landscape would create their greatest work when the light on them seems to be burning brightest.
The percussion-heavy, guitar-slathered instrumentation of After the Lights is fueled by a snare and bass reversal of sorts, with the churning hits of guitars underlain by often biting drum patterns. “In Love With the Sound” somberly opens before introducing us to the band’s craftwork, stringing along tension and unwavering percussion for an in-your-face sonic encounter. But while your ears are subjecting themselves to the snap-filled lines from the rhythm section, TSL vocalist Andy Maddox seeps raw emotion from his edge-of-a-breakdown vocal approach. The brink of eruption is apparent on “This Heals Nothing” as well, whether it be the weary angst earlier in the track or the resolving finish capped by barks of ‘This heals nothing!’.
Still energetic if a bit less dense, “The Comfort of Small Defeats” decompresses the sound of the band a bit with positive results, showing how moments of restrained drumming help bring the melodies and structures to the forefront. ‘Everything is fine, everything is falling apart’ shouts Maddox in the track’s midpoint breather, while single impact points pave the way for a return to the uplifting melodic underlying that works well with this track and After the Lights’ lyrical content in general. “Days of Punched In” shows off drummer Aaron Neigher’s prominent chops as well, though this time without losing the other parts of the song in a whirlwind of snare and bass blasting. You can certainly appreciate his abilities throughout the record, though there are moments when things get a little out of hand and would have played out a bit better with some less snare-heavy foundations for sections of these tracks.
Finishing us off with “Desperate Vespers,” Maddox’s pleading first words (‘When you come home from the hospital, let me be the first to welcome you’) send chills when mixed with the bright yet emotionally tugging guitar melodies in the background. Laying back for the most part as tension builds, this closer pulls and sways with the structures of the track as Maddox pours his heart out in his declaration of ‘I will never take you for granted’. The track reminds us that while the approach isn’t always dead-on conventional, the emotions displayed certainly can speak to us all.
Injecting this record with a feeling of catharsis, The Saddest Landscape pulls you in and pleads for you to listen. In their latest creation, they leave us with another solid addition to their collection, making us even happier they decided to return from their earlier hiatus.