Verse - Bitter Clarity, Uncommon Grace
Record Label: Bridge Nine
Release Date: July 17, 2012
In one of the more surprising moves in the past year, at least for the hardcore community, Providence-based Verse decided to give it another go – both deciding to start playing shows again and to put their communal efforts into another LP. Bitter Clarity, Uncommon Grace is the result of a group of guys deciding to reconcile whatever it was that made them disband in the first place, not only seemingly picking up what they left on the table from Aggression, but upping the ante entirely. It is that culmination of recollection and progression fueling hope that the band’s newly penned cathartic twists on hardcore this time around will manifest itself into a further appreciation for a band who always put themselves on the line as musicians in their effort to try and keep things fresh.
Just looking at the track list, we can tell there are several conceptual things at play here, – whether it is the one-two leadoff of “The Selfish of the Earth” and “The Selfless of the Earth” or the trio of “Segue” tracks – that keeps the pushing nature of the band fresh in our minds. There is no boundary seemingly off-limits here – we hope for heavy and get emotionally draining rhythmic pummeling, we ask for melody and get beat on the head with differently approached stylistic contributions (“Selfish”/”Selfless”, “Setting Fire to the Bridges We Cross”).
For a hardcore band to dip into a pot of lush cleans and pacing guitars (“Setting Fire”, “The End of All Light”) then to push us into impatiently paced, yet similar territory in terms of tone in “Oceanic Tendencies” – which for all intents and purposes rips with poignant bass before bringing a somewhat trippy guitar vibe to the mix – what are we to make of this album as a collective entity? This album finds a distinct, yet rather refreshing home in the lack of abrasion throughout most of these tracks. Given the band’s past, it would only be proper to expect a collection of thoroughly crushing tracks despite the pace. But this album reminds us that you can still pack the same emotional punch, and capitalize on it, by controlling your leaning on the crunching distortion and using it like an icing instead of a glue.
That isn’t to say this album doesn’t have an edge to it. “You and I Are The Fortunate Ones” starts off strong with a grimy line of guitars offset by the sullen optimism of its chorus-like counterpart. The off-kilter drumming of said darker sections only adds to the crunching groove of the guitars, again showing us less but making it mean more in the process. The quicker numbers of this disc are spread pretty thin as well, with “The Silver Spoon and The Empty Plate” sounding a bit hollow compared to the slower, but oddly much more moving compositions around it. It would be nice to hear the band tap the strength and confidence of a number like closer “The End of All Life” into something with a quicker tempo, as it seems plainly the faster this disc goes the more restrained it feels in comparison.
Sean Murphy’s much less structured lyrical style only adds to the rule breaking nature of the proceedings, almost operating on their own from the musical backdrop of this stage. “The Selfless of the Earth” shows Murphy in his prime, weaving words through a course set only at certain points and left unchecked to follow patterns and bars otherwise. Where the rest of the band certainly feel different in the performance of their art, Murphy’s returned mostly unscathed like an anchor in an unknown storm – much to our relief.
I would understand a disappointment for lack of abrasion, even the largely dropped pace of this album in favor of doing something not enough bands seem to appreciate in their music – creating and sustaining tension with an effective release that carries from track to track. But the band’s return to physical form could not certainly leave its sound unchanged even by the most optimistic standards. Inevitably fresh without losing their identity, Bitter Clarity, Uncommon Grace could serve as both the triumphant return and swan song from one of the scene’s under-appreciated bands if they decide not to make anything else. It might take a moment to sink in, but the return of Verse to both touring and recording has reaped its most challenging disc to date – leaving us with something to cherish and consider in the process.
Inevitably fresh without losing their identity, Bitter Clarity, Uncommon Grace could serve as both the triumphant return and swan song from one of the scene’s under-appreciated bands if they decide not to make anything else. It might take a moment to sink in, but the return of Verse to both touring and recording has reaped its most challenging disc to date – leaving us with something to cherish and consider in the process.