Ottawa’s Elementals are either one or the other but they are never both. They are either an energetic grungy alt-rock band (erring on screamo) or they’re an emotional and anxious pop-rock (granted, hard rock) band. Their caustic cacophony is either completely jarring or their ability to create an intimacy amongst an upbeat soundscape is wholly welcoming. But they never mix the two. Where Dallas Green’s angelic vocals rose above George Pettit’s grime in Alexisonfire during the golden era of Canadian-screamo, the band doesn’t compound their two elements but rather stick to the fundamentals. Thankfully, there’s a lot to like about them.
The chaotic, all-instrumental opener “Sunbirth” perfectly introduces the LOUD side of the band. In “Debase” the pace is considerably slower than “Sunbirth” but the same grit, made grittier by Cody Smith’s gravelly shriek, drags the track through a gloriously muddy wasteland while in “Messiah Complex,” the band jumps between mayhem and thunderous, though firmly rooted, rock melodies.
Although I’ve been watching a lot of The X-Files recently, nothing quite prepared me for the entity that is “Alien Fetus.” Spawning from the entrails of “Messiah Complex,” “Alien Fetus” is a 35 second, high-energy, mess that somehow gets more terrifying with each listen.
And with that in mind, the other side of I’m Not Here, I’m Not Real creates the exact opposite feeling. Two songs after “Alien Fetus,” lies “Belladonna” – a poppy number wrapped in love and fear, that after a few bars of clean guitar chords will have you questioning if you’re listening to the same band. An earlier track “People of the Night” swings along with its steady guitar section but is tamed by the uncertainty vulnerability of the lyrics themselves. By its outro the song reaches a moment of reassurance and excellence thanks to the band letting you know you’re not alone by singing along to: “I can’t afford it here. We’re people of the night.”
“Trains,” the closer, is the closest listeners get to a merging of the two sides of Elementals. Smith leaps from a frail voice that’s almost breaking with emotions at the beginning of the song to, showing that his skin is a lot thicker than originally perceived, a torrential cadence similar to the screams of earlier – impressive vocal versatility to say the least.
Whether you love one side over the other or have a penchant for both the light and the dark, like Bandcamp supporter Jarhead who writes, “this album gives me a boner,” Elementals have arrived and they are definitely real.
Top Tracks: “People of the Night,” “Trains”
Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)