Vanattica - The King Or Me EP
Release Date: March 15, 2011
Record Label: Ignite Records
When I received my link to stream Vanattica's The King or Me EP, I was already a little skeptical. They were pegged as "the next Fall Out Boy" or something like that, and that's always sort of an "um....alright then buddy" sort of statement. When I got to the stream page, I was further confused by this gem of a line: "Vanattica features the vocal clarity of Fall Out Boy with the fierceness of Atreyu."
Despite my senses telling me to throw my laptop out of a three-story window a la Florida-era Cam Newton, I streamed the EP and was delightfully rested of any unsure feelings. While that line certainly isn't any good for marketing, it isn't an awful way to describe Vanattica's sound.
Travis Leonard's vocals, while not overly bearing any similarities to Patrick Stump, indeed are very clear and just good overall. Leonard has the sort of voice that suits pop punk perfectly without being too whiny or annoying - he can soar in the choruses but his voice is deep (read: manly) enough to handle the, erm, "fierceness" of Vanattica's instrumentals.
Those instrumentals don't really sound like any Atreyu songs that I've heard but do just sound like some heavier pop punk. The guitars provided by Brendan Summers and Leonard carry the blunt force of Vanattica's sound, and the two aren't afraid to unleash the distortion beast. It's actually entirely refreshing to hear a pop punk band that can get kind of heavy (I don't want to say gritty or punk-er because of how cleanly produced the EP is) without feeling the need to insert a bullshit breakdown or unnecessary screams.
Opener "Ready Set Stop" will tell you all you need to know about the band. While The King or Me's four songs aren't identical, the band does have a fairly consistent core sound. So if this song tickles your fancy, then proceed wholeheartedly, but if it doesn't, then turn around and run, Sally. Like I said, the guitars are very prominent here, and the song hits an emotional high when Leonard belts out, "We've worked so hard for this / We can't just go / Throw it away." The line leads into a nifty instrumental portion that lends itself nicely to some headbanging.
As you might be able to tell by its title, "It's All About Gun Shows and Rodeos" is the worst song on the EP. That being said, Leonard absolutely soars in the chorus, paced by Drake Gravely's insistent drum work and Jaron Lancaster's groovy bass. So maybe being the worst song on a strong release is kind of like being the worst cookie at Mrs. Field's. Don't sleep on the track.
"Confidential Liar" is probably the catchiest track here, and I'd highly recommend putting this song or the opener on your girlfriend's next mix tape because she probably likes dancing in the car. Closer "Chasing the Horizon" is where Vanattica flexes its versatile muscles, showing that they can do work outside of the pop punk sound. The guitars here and the general melody remind me a lot of PM Today and other similar progressive (or whatever) bands, but with a focused approach on keeping the pop punk base.
I think this one is a fairly easy call. I don't think we listen to music in a scene where Vanattica will fail to gain popularity during this calendar year. This band lies at a delicate point, with their music heavy enough to appeal to kids who like much heavier music, but catchy enough for kids who like much poppier music. They sort of fall in a perfect balance where maybe the brutal metal kids want to listen to something a little lighter and the pop rock kids want to listen to something a little heavier. Meanwhile, the pop punk kids are happy to have another sweet EP to listen to while they wait for that new blink-182 disc...because it's totally right around the corner and everything.
The hodgepodge of influences might make a listener think that Vanattica doesn't really know what it wants its music to sound like, but in reality the exact opposite is true. This band knows exactly what it wants to sound like. It's already created its own niche, it's own sound where it has the potential to thrive in 2011.