January 6, 2012

Album Review: Loma Prieta's I.V.

As the first buzzed about hardcore release of the new year, Loma Prieta have their work cut out for them. 2011 after all was a very good year for their compadres in Touché Amoré thanks to a breakthrough album in Parting the Seas Between Brightness and Me. It also saw Trash Talk's fully engulfed star continue to rise and burn with the arrival of another scorching EP while their pals in Joyce Manor became the newest punk rock darlings on their self-titled debut. With more focus being put on California's punk and hardcore landscape today than five years ago, Loma Prieta have the daunting task of fulfilling any sort of heightened expectations anyone might come to expect from a mainstay band out of a scene that's almost single-handedly revitalized the genre. Without fear or regard for any of this, the Bay Area band manhandles the pressure with their fourth LP and Deathwish Records debut, I.V..

Longtime fans of Loma Prieta can attest that each release by the quartet has increased in aggression over the past half decade. While I.V. doesn't let its foot off the heavy pedal, it invites listeners new and old into the fold by welding together varied creative directions that until now had made their back catalog somewhat disjointed. Carving out your own sound in the realm of emotionally-driven hardcore -- a sub-genre that constantly struggles to stay fresh and diverse -- is no easy fete, but Loma Prieta do it justice through small refinements and tweaks in detail.

The one-two-three opening punch of "Fly by Night", "Torn Picture" and "Reproduction" displays a sprawling style of grindcore with elements of post-rock and screamo bleeding through, resulting in a surprising melodic ascension. Even when the decibels rise and the guitars chug like pistons (parts four through six of "Trilogy," "Uniform," "Useless") Loma Prieta freshen up an old idea by incorporating their mark of emotional depth and intricate song structuring into the mix. These harsher areas ironically transition beautifully into the albums closing moments ("Biography," "Diamond Toot") where turmoil becomes an afterthought, ebbing and flowing into serenity where space is explored rather than confined.

Since 2005, Loma Prieta have dynamically been testing their creative palette, but it's on I.V. where the San Francisco quartet releases their most cohesive collection of material to date. The latest rumbling from California's next wave of hardcore may not necessarily redefine the genre, but it certainly sets the bar high enough for their contemporaries in 2012 to make a statement as honest and representative as this.

Loma Prieta's I.V. will be released January 17, 2012 on Deathwish Records.

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