Epitaph records has always been excellent at promoting their artists. The label has recently brought up some bands who have achieved decent amounts of popularity (Escape the Fate, Parkway Drive) while also helping previously established bands achieve powerhouse status (Bring Me the Horizon, Set Your Goals). Unfortunately there are a few Epitaph bands whose albums seem to scream “next big thing” but for whatever reason their career just doesn’t take off as it should (Our Last Night, Veara).
For the past 3 years Boston, Massachusetts metalcore outfit Vanna has been stuck in the latter category. Their debut album Curses portrayed a band that although talented, had too many identity issues to achieve major popularity. However, when their 2009 effort A New Hope rolled around, the band had finally discovered who they were. The album was packed with catchy choruses and intense breakdowns. Unfortunately luck wasn’t on Vanna’s side and the band continued to play second fiddle to the bigger acts in their genre (most of which weren’t even nearly as talented as Vanna). Then in July of last year, the band decided to part ways with frontman Chris Preece. However they quickly moved on and enlisted Davey Miluse (previously of Seeker Destroyer) as their replacement. The Boston outfit then left Epitaph to join the newly founded label Artery Recordings. Now Vanna has returned with what is hopefully a taste of things to come, The Honest Hearts EP.
It is clear from the start that Vanna hasn’t strayed far from their sound; instead, they’ve improved on it. The choruses are catchier than they were before, and even the verses manage to get into your head and under your skin (check out “Lost and Bound”). The band also employs more than just breakdowns in their songs, the new tracks have some interesting layers that make them much more entertaining (Sending Vessels). However, that’s not to say that the band has lost their heavier edge. Songs like “Passerby” and “Trashmouth” still pack a punch and are much heavier than anything off the band’s previous albums.
The change of frontman also doesn’t seem to have hurt the band. New screamer Miluse gives a performance that matches that of his predecessor, and although clean singer Evan Pharmakis isn’t hitting ridiculous notes, his voice is incredibly smooth and accessible which only makes the EP more enjoyable. The lyrics have also been changed for the better. This time around the focus is on self-examination and longing for a better and simpler life rather than relationships.
The only downside to the EP is “Dead Language” (which is a rerecording of “A Dead Language for a Dying Lady” from their first release with Epitaph, The Search Party Never Came EP). Despite still being an excellent track, it just doesn’t compare to the rest of the record.
Vanna has a new chance, with a new label, new frontman, and an improved sound; the band is finally getting another shot at what should have been theirs since the start. The Honest Hearts EP may only be 5 songs long, but it is still enough to make me anticipate their next full-length much more than that of most bands in the scene. The odds are all in favor of Vanna, and if this EP is any indication of what their new album will be like then let me reintroduce you to Vanna, your new favorite band and the next big thing.