Theories Of Despair - Renounced
By Benjamin Irons
For those alien to Renounced’s relentless knack for discordant riffs and nauseated vocals up until now, Theories Of Despair may have dropped the hardcore 5-piece into prominence just at the right time.
Album artwork design by frontman and photographer Daniel Waverley Gray, adapted by his original shot of 5 birds on a wire. Also included are Gray's handwritten lyrics for the new record. Gray documents the music culture of hardcore, punk, indie & metal culture through photography, which can be found on his tumblr.
The Reading outfit have been seemingly sheltered from any sort of “mainstream” limelight prior to this, their second full length, as they sought to dominate the fledgling underground hardcore scene across Europe and North America before conquering widespread audiences. But they’re 3 year absence from straddling the star-studded fence doesn’t appear to have blunted their determination, as Theories Of Despair - the catalyst for such change – will demonstrate.
Refining their somewhat shadowed sound from previous titles The Melancholy We Ache and Conditioned From Birth, opening track “Buried” makes sense of this leap forward, blending grubby riffs and crashing cymbals to mark an explosive arrival into broader territory. But while frontman Dan Gray powers through each track with merciless screams, guitarists Dan Rayner and Sam Knight couple them, cautiously, with melody on “A Fire No Longer Burns” that resembles a Killswitch Engage and Darkest Hour redress, without dampening the shrieks and screeches that hardcore and metalcore have both been born accustomed to.
“Heart Beats Cold” and “Abandon Your King” both channel softer introductory passages, but are soon woven into more abrupt, but visceral, patches of violent vocals that have consulted the very bile of Gray’s intestine, and the raw flem at the back of his throat, particularly, the former’s outro; Rayner’s ear-splitting dischords and drummer Jack Bryant’s intermittent cymbal crashes trigger bassist Martin Arnold and guitarist Sam Knight to summon the thickest cyclical chugs for the heaviest 1 minute on the album.
The tranquil nature of “The Fragility Of Life” pushes its successor “Anxiety In Black And White” unto a more boisterous platform. Though the softness of the mid-section is far too regular an occurrence for such a heavy outfit, they sure do make up ground lost with a sudden convulsion defective of any sort of melodical order, ploughing bluntly into one of the album’s murkiest breakdowns. Despite this, the album’s title track “Theories Of Despair” is by no means under pressure to conform by those it has succeeded. And it certainly should not be taken at face value. While the main hook is by no means the most daring stride in the band’s documents, they once again penetrate harmony in the last 30 seconds to keep you wining and dining.
Theories Of Despair is both coarse and clean, with melody being approached with arms open wider than its genre would usually be accepting of. But, though it shrugs off pressures to conform to earlier workings in the band’s discography, it does not stray from the path that will have arguably landed them their greatest chance of recognition at its centremost level.