Last year, Being As An Ocean attempted to mix melodic hardcore and ambient experimentation into one emotionally poignant package. An enticing approach ultimately led to disappointment, as Waiting for Morning to Come’s six interlude tracks and thin instrumentation left listeners underwhelmed by the group’s excessive ambition. Now, Casey has made the same progression with their sophomore effort, Where I Go When I Am Sleeping, and with slightly different results. The music itself is more engaging and the songwriting is more impressive, even if the record as a whole is still a step down from the band’s previous one in terms of impact.
Like Being As An Ocean’s most recent effort, Casey’s second LP takes its dear time to get going. The band don’t pound listeners out of the gate with thunderous hardcore melodies as they did on Love Is Not Enough, rather showcasing their new ambient style in full. “Making Weight” drifts by, setting the tone more so than actually standing out. On the next two songs, “Wavering” and “Phosphenes,” things get quite a bit heavier, but with a nice balance of melody and aggression to make sure the songs are felt in full. Throughout the next nine songs, the material slowly sinks in, with clean vocals thoughtfully offset by screams and guitars laying the foundation with both gentle chords and murky riffs.
Emotionally, the group continues to triumph. They build on what their previous record set forth: songs that detail the struggles vocalist Tom Weaver has endured. Beyond the themes of depression that dominate so many heavy bands’ lyrics, the frontman also speaks about a heart attack, a severe car crash, and other health issues he’s experienced — all empowering Casey to speak of overcoming in a way not many other bands can. With Weaver reflecting on his troubles throughout the album’s runtime, it makes sense that it focuses more on atmosphere. But while stripping things down does the record a great deal of good, it strips a little too much.
The album’s biggest strength is often its biggest flaw, as the sentiments that lay at the songs’ surface aren’t always kept up with musically. “Fluorescents” is the deepest cut, with Weaver intertwining his physical and mental tribulations following a colitis flare-up. Its successor, “Flowers by the Bed”, follows suit with a powerful reflection on the selflessness of others. Even though they’re moving tracks, they maintain the mostly mid-tempo delivery and slower pace as the majority of the record; there’s no doubt the songs are heartfelt, but they don’t always stick. The three instrumental tracks are solid offerings, but there are already enough breaks in the action in the full band songs that they unnecessarily draw the album out.
If there’s anything I love to see in an increasingly saturated genre of hardcore, it’s a band maturing, and Casey does exactly that on their second full-length. But bands don’t grow up without a few growing pains — something the English group reveals despite their impressive lyricism and admirable ambition. Some listeners may immediately grasp onto their more melodic approach, while others may be too overcome by the lack of musical density to recognize the beauty of a pain-ridden, yet capacious message. But even with a few caveats, Where I Go When I Am Sleeping finds the band’s so-called “labour of love” continuing to prevail.
Melodic Hardcore | Rise Records