After hitting us in the gut with last year’s After the Lights, The Saddest Landscape took right to giving us another batch of tracks via the cleaner and somewhat meaner sways of Exit Wounded – a five-track foray that attempts to further capture the explosive catharsis and frantic musicianship these guys have become known for in a continued slant of tighter production and poetically-thinking lyricism. Though this EP actually feels a little too slick at times for its own good, especially in the vocals, everything you’ve come to know about the band is still very much intact – whether it be the abrasive to gentle dynamics, in-your-face vocals or their still rather tight songwriting. Exit Wounded is still a fairly enjoyable collection of screamo-tinged post-hardcore though, hitting the heartstrings while capturing our attention through deliberate riffage and pushing arrangements with varying results.
Just to get this out of the way – for the most part, this is very much an EP of songs you’d come to expect from The Saddest Landscape. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing though. Tensive instrumentals melding with shouted, almost aching vocals make up for the bulk of these five tracks, starting with the solemn procession of opener “Those Yet Lived.” The blitz of percussion you’d hear on earlier releases is still apparent, whether it be through tom-filled flurries or cymbal accents in the pockets of slicing guitar lines. “Heartbroke and Fear Sick” is probably the go-to example of this, as the punching introduction and off-kilter progression of the song capture the band in their cathartic best. “Coffins Like Ours” follows a similar path in instilling dynamics, but it still packs a punch with aching guitars and pleading vocals that push without hesitation. The resolving passage of slow melodies and pulsing strums is a little clumsy as it leads back to the full band equation, as it loses the steam so easily built up at the beginning of the track and seemingly does little with it. It is perhaps the one track I’m not completely sold on even after repeated listens to the EP.
Another thing you might notice, or at least I did after a couple listens, is the production of this EP – in particular on the final textures of the vocals. One of the things that made You Will Not Survive such a powerful record was the raw, emotional edge on both the instruments and the vocals of Andy Maddox. I’m not going as far to say that that is completely gone here, as one listen will find sure proof of the emotional power in Maddox’s voice via songs like “Redefining Loneliness” and “Heartbroke and Fear Sick,” but the process seems to have left the band’s rawness a little stifled on this EP. I found myself wanting a little bit more of that rawness on Exit Wounded, but I’m also willing to suggest that the cleaner tones and tighter production make these guys a bit more palatable in the long run to those who may have been turned off by their earlier work.
If you’ve been following these guys longer than I have, i.e. before You Will Not Survive and perhaps since their previous hiatus, you’re probably even happier than I to seem them continue to churn out solid additions to their ever-expanding discography at an almost yearly rate. Exit Wounded is a leaner, less explosive portrait of The Saddest Landscape, but it captures them still just as emotional and perhaps a bit smarter about their songwriting in the process. If you’ve somehow missed out on these guys through the years, this is the best place for you to get acquainted.