Youth Funeral - Heavenward

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Heavenward marks the fifth release of New Hampshire based emoviolence outfit Youth Funeral. At the same time it’s the band’s full-length debut and clear proof that their chaotic style also functions within an extended collection of songs.

Formed three years ago, the threepiece can already look back on a discography of three EPs and one split record with Scowler from Milwaukee. Since Symptom Of Time, their very first release back in 2013, Casey Nealon, Spencer Benson and Mike Ralston were able to constantly deliver one great screamo record after another and with Heavenward they finally reached the point beyond all possible doubt.

The title track, which opens the album, hasn’t really started yet, as Casey Nealon screams ’Illuminated with the light I created I am heavenward‘ and in an instant it gets obvious that the following fifteen minutes will pierce marrow and bone. Attracted by Nealon’s irresistible vocals and the chaos unleashed by distorted guitars and whirling drums, you quickly find yourself in an intense sequence of well-connected songs, telling the painful tale of a heartbreaking farewell. The following songs are kept quite cryptic, but as soon as the last tone of ’Only In Sleep Safe’ has died away, Youth Funeral lifts the veil and Heavenward slowly becomes more concrete as Nealon brushes a dark and oppressive tableau on ’Lonely Man’ and ’Helplessness’, dragging the audience into the protagonist’s struggle with depression caused by the loss of an old friend.

Misery lies in the air, while Youth Funeral maintains the nightmarish and threatening sound during the next few songs, which are characterized by the group’s highly praised approach in song writing, equaling a modern interpretation of the distinctive sound of bands like Orchid and Pageninetynine, who influenced the genre between the late 1990s and early 2000s. While the band sticks to this established formula most of the time, it’s songs like ’Only In Sleep Save’ or the fantastic ’Shadow Phases’ that introduce some calmer elements to their composition. When Nealon manically repeats ’Trapped between white walls. Light has become a stranger to you. You remain near to the distance of the presence. Always in the distant, never in the present.’ it feels like walking the thin line between chaos and order, a beautiful, yet fragile construct, whereas Youth Funeral won’t let one or another gain the upper hand. Heralded by the instrumental ’Bloom’ the final four and a half minutes don’t lose any intensity, with Nealon wistfully reciting lyrics such as ’Memories of goodbyes fill the air and I choke and writhe in despair. I can't breathe. I'm in a spell of love and I can't break free.’ on the phenomenal ’Perfume’ or desperately asking: ’On lonely nights, do you still look back?’ during the closing track called ’With Love I Weep’.

Heavenward’s full beauty can only be perceived by heart and it’s safe to say that Nealon, Benson and Ralston delivered the strongest emoviolence album of 2016. Their debut on full-length distance is a modern-day classic, whose eleven songs seem to merge in one perfect work of art, carrying the potential to initiate a new glorious era of violent, yet emotional punk music.

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