It has been four years since Rockfest Records outfit Amongst the Giants graced the music scene with their debut album, Obscene. They’ve now returned with the Desolate Minds EP, a six-track masterclass in modern metalcore.
The new EP shows the growth the band has gone through with tighter instrumentation, harder-hitting breakdowns, and overall stronger structure. Desolate Minds fires on all cylinders, and seldom takes its foot off the gas. Wave after wave of crushing fretwork and pummeling drums flow together in a captivating cascade that is combined with the aggression of Brian Boyd’s harsh vocals and Marco Pera’s smooth, yet firm, cleans.
The end result is an exceptionally balanced expression of metalcore that is, somewhat refreshingly, devoid of many electronic elements. Synth-driven metalcore (a la Wage War, I Prevail, Architects) is abandoned in favor of raw instrumentation and musicianship.
As the name Desolate Minds might suggest, the primary theme of the album is mental health and the bleak reality of hopelessness. The feeling of being trapped in your own mind is explored in “Black Box.” The industrial-driven “Love Pain” takes time to weave through pain as the only thing we’re “comfortable” with and how, at times, it’s as if we’re hooked on it: “Keep finding new ways to hold myself down, head underwater, no one can hear me now.”
“Medicated” serves as a thesis of sorts for the album. Marco Pera wrote this song based on his experience with antidepressants and wondering what his perspective would be if he wasn’t on them. The track is, for all intents and purposes, a power ballad that laments the way mental health is a massive struggle. It begs for understanding and friendship that doesn’t melt away when things get hard. The bridge of the song stands as a statement that summarizes the overall message of the EP: “Even medicated, I barely make it. I can’t escape it; alive, sedated. I swear to you, I’m never giving up. I’ll always keep on trying.”
For those looking for pure aggression, “Lamenter” meets every expectation. It is filled with complicated fretwork, calculated drumwork, the raw aggression so prominent in Brian Boyd’s voice, and a powerful melody distinctly articulated in Pera’s singing. In a time where it seems like breakdowns in metalcore are becoming less pronounced and shortened, “Lamenter” doubles down and bashes listeners with a midverse breakdown plus a layered breakdown after the bridge. Lyrically, “Lamenter” is (as the name implies) a lament that admits everything is not okay and there is no control. It’s a bit cliché to say, but if the first step in fixing a problem is admitting there is one, then Amongst the Giants do so in a bold and raw way.
The EP slows down with “Hourglass,” a soft track that plays with the theme of “Lamenter.” Where “Lamenter” admitted bluntly that things aren’t okay, “Hourglass” frankly confesses that what used to be a foundation no longer helps: “I’m not content with believing, or just pretending. Tell me, tell me how this ends.”
As mentioned, this EP is a bleak, but honest, representation of living without hope that things will get better. It is desolate in hope, trapped in a mind that is chained by pain, clouded by external influences, and cries out in that despair for things to get better— but admits to a lack of belief that they will. While some may yearn for a presentation of the hope of Christ, many will connect with the honesty that, sometimes, people truly feel no hope. For some people, heart-breakingly, things do not get better.
What Amongst the Giants have done with Desolate Minds is create a vehicle that gives voice to the utter hopelessness many feel trapped in, and they’ve done so in an extremely creative and expressive way. The EP is sharp in its delivery of finely-crafted metalcore that is unflinching in its punishing heaviness and unapologetic in the bleak harshness of its lyrics. Desolate Minds is unflinching in its embrace of raw, unfiltered honesty, and yet, it is accessible through the compelling engagement of its delivery.