Last year, Nottingham-based quintet Palm Reader changed their Twitter bio to specifically indicate they were ‘NOT a hardcore band.’ Even if they needed to state it by fact, their craft displayed on ‘Bad Weather’ and ‘Beside the Ones We Love’ has proven them to run creative circles around any UKHC contemporaries content with ripping off Gallows for a living.
Perhaps it was a helpful disclaimer for the uninformed who believe they can walk straight into third full-length, ‘Braille’, for a quick adrenaline dose, then walk away again. This album is, hostile and willing to journey listeners down vast rabbit holes of ambience and prog-metal extravagance.
It’s not a complete departure from the throat-punching band we’ve known up to this point, as opener ‘Swarm’ forcefully demonstrates via scattergun instrumentation juddering in unpredictable time-signatures like a bullet bouncing off the bars in a metal cage. Plus, the dense opening to ‘Coalesce’ is easily the heaviest moment of their back catalogue up to now.
More importantly, this album is about Palm Reader’s metamorphosis into a bolder, more affluent sounding outfit. Guitarist Andy Gillan’s love for Mastodon inspires the luminous leads that open ‘Inertia’, while sweeping choruses in ‘Internal Winter’ and ‘The Turn’ are built on concrete rhythm sections that demand your undivided attention. This is also achieved by frontman Josh McKeown’s increased confidence, particularly in the use of clean vocals, resulting in a more vulnerable, dimensional performance.
Palm Reader have always shone as more ambitious than a lot of artists on their playing field, and on ‘Braille’ that ambition is put into full effect. It’s a record that demands patience, focus and an emotional resonance greater than a release of energy. But that’s okay, because this is not a hardcore record, and Palm Reader are not a hardcore band.
‘Braille’ by Palm Reader is released on April 6th via Silent Cult Records.
Words by Andy Davidson (@AndyrfDavidson)