[schema type=”review” name=”DayShell – Nexus” description=”Label: Spinefarm Records” author=”Sarp Esin” pubdate=”2016-10-21″ ]
Ever wondered what would happen if Shayley Bourget (ex-Of Mice & Men) decided to one-man-band it, but then hired two other guys to help out? Let’s find out.
Those familiar with the post-hardcore scene, especially what it evolved into nowadays (known mostly only as “-core”) will know the name, Of Mice & Men, and will also know the imprint of the genre’s current permutation. DayShell is an offshoot of that sound (which will be outlined in a minute), in that it’s a lot tamer, a lot less volatile / energetic, and contains a lot more pop in the mix.
To elaborate, the sound of DayShell takes cues from Bourget’s roots, but, if anything, the result has more in common with pop rock bands like Tonight Alive. You get your pounding double bass action and chug-chug riffs (with what I think is a seven-string, for some reason,) you get your sharp-as-a-razor bass and spot-on vocal melodies, it’s all in place, except it’s all too comfortably in place, to the point of predictability. Nexus carries this unshakable feeling that it was on the cusp of being a full-on pop record, but then decided to veer clear at the last second, losing this game of creative chicken and ending up neither here nor there.
That’s Nexus in a nutshell: it’s an in-between. It doesn’t know what it wants to be, and so it tries to be everything at once. Most of the time, it feels way too polished and watered down, despite a decent production job; and then it switches gears and goes raw, and then that rawness is out of place, like the djent-like guitars in “Speaking in Tongues.” Other times, it’s not executed skillfully enough to hit home, which is most of Bourget’s screams – “The Weapon” is a good example of this. The man has wonderful clean vocals, silky-smooth highs, and I love his vocal melodies, but his insistence in screaming and thus letting his voice break doesn’t sound intense, it sounds like he’s not up to the task.
This bleeds into the way the songs swing. “FTNW”, for instance, is a 90’s summertime joint, it comes out of nowhere, and does a good job of feeling out of place. “Terrified” has prog ambitions, but falls just short of getting there. “Rush Hour” is pointless, except for its bridge – you daydream during the song, but the bridge makes your ears perk up. But the crown jewel is “Improvise”, which is the worst song in Nexus, hands down. Never mind that it’s nothing special in general, it just feels like a cheap pop ballad with even cheaper lyrics that somehow ended up on the album when the guitars and the double bass action were thrown in.
The lyricism gets its own little aside, because some lines on the album are very bad, both in themselves and in execution. For an album that manages to hit where it hurts at times, there are a lot of moments when the lyrics just pull the whole experience under.
What a pity, too, because there are some stellar songs on this album. The brilliant “Spit in the Face” with its marvelous chorus, “Master of Making,” and even the somewhat suspect “Low Light” are all rock-solid, all executed nicely and are memorable. What’s more, the closer, “Digital Sand” is the best song on the album. It’s an honest, from-the-heart, wonderfully written and beautifully executed piece, featuring the type of mood-driven qualities that you wish characterized the album throughout, not just made an appearance in the end.
But the takeaway line isn’t that Nexus is a bad album, because it really isn’t. It’s just not a great album. It’s good, and that’s all it is – just good. It’s just “nice.” Nice songs, nice flow, and good performances from all those involved, none of which help DayShell punch through the glass ceiling. There is potential, but Nexus just isn’t where it was fully realized at all.
Shayley Bourget – lead vocals, rhythm guitar, keyboards, piano, lead guitar
Jordan Wooley – bass, backing vocals
Zack Baker – drums, percussion
02. A New Man
04. Low Light
05. The Weapon
07. Spit in the Face
08. Master of Making
10. Rush Hour
11. Speaking in Tongues
12. Digital Sand