Hell of Highwater – The Other Side EP
Release Date: August 6, 2013
Time has a way of slipping by. It has been four years since Brandon Saller last released a record with Atreyu, three years since the band finished Mayhem Festival and went on hiatus, two years since the release of Hell of Highwater‘s debut album, “Begin Again“, and another half year has slipped by since its re-release this winter. This spring, Saller and his nascent band, Hell or Highwater began a Kickstarter program to fund their new EP, “The Other Side“. The EP features five new tracks of the band’s catchy, riff driven melodies.
Hell or Highwater finds Saller moving out from behind the drum kit to get his frontman freak on. Captain Carl handles the skins now, laying down the foundation with bassist Joey Bradford. Bookending Saller in the foreground are guitarists Matt Pauling and Neal Tiemann.
“The Other Side” represents a continuation of the melodic hard rock sound debuted on “Begin Again“. The style is about as far removed from Saller’s work with Atreyu as one can get without switching genres. His vocals add just the right amount of rasp and grit to the mix to give each track some bite without losing the emotive delivery.
Five new songs are represented here; “Moment of Clarity”, the title cut, “Wrong”, “Remember The Life and Not Death”, and “Drowning in the Waves”. All five carry the band’s signature swell of harmonies and rich melody lines. All have addictive and memorable hooks. “The Other Side” was produced by Fred Archambault (Avenged Sevenfold, Death By Stereo) and artwork comes courtesy of Tom Hane of In This Moment.
The EP kicks off with the slow rolling intro to “Moment of Clarity” which ultimately turns into the record’s heaviest and perhaps darkest track. There is a nice groove in the undercurrent on this song, and Saller shows off his ability to combine angst and hope in one spiraling vocal delivery.
“Wrong” is an instantly infectious radio hit waiting to happen. It yields a thunderous rhythm section and has sharper hooks than a prize fighter. “The Other Side” is a perfect example of a song that could work brilliantly as a stripped down campfire acoustic, or be rocked up (as it is here) into a catchy and stirring rocker.
“Remember The Life and Not Death” is a quasi-ballad about celebrating life in the midst of loss. “Drowning in Waves” segues nicely from the previous track in theme and style, until it builds into a heavier jaunt, with something of an Irish celebration near the end. While I’m not sure if this was intended as a thematic EP, there is the sense in the lyrical content here that Sallers’ is waiting on the other side for the object of his loss to return to him: “I’ll be drowning in the waves, but I will wait for you,” he sings, as he awaits his love to come across that mortal divide.
In all, “The Other Side” is packed with edgy yet harmonious tunes that will easily get lodged in your head where they will remain, enslaving your soul for days. Hell or Highwater may have begun as a side project, but if the first two offerings from the band are any indication, this may be Saller’s future.