Afternoon altrocklifers! Today I’ll be reviewing the latest album by Maryland band Have Mercy. Formed in 2011, the band now only has one official member – vocalist and guitarist Brian Swindle – following the departure of its other members last year. I’m excited to hear how their third full length album, Make The Best Of It, will sound in comparison to their earlier records, put together when the band was still a five-piece. It was the video for Have Mercy’s 2013 track, Let’s Talk About Your Hair, that got me interested in this band, so I was excited to hear Coexist, the first single released from the album released on Friday. You can see the music video for the track here:
I can absolutely understand why Coexist was chosen to be the lead single for the album: it manages to wrap up the Have Mercy sound into one concise, three minute track. Muted verses are contrasted by a rough-around the edges, almost shouted chorus, and the combination of rumbling drums and simple yet effective riffs gives the song a real stadium filling vibe.
On to the record: Make The Best Of It begins with Smoke And Lace, a high tempo track full of undulating bass, crashing drums, and a catchy chorus. It’s full of energy, and to me the perfect album opening track. This album is anything but predictable, shifting from almost pop-punk offerings such as Begging For Bones, to the melodic and gentle guitars of Ghost.
Something I’ve always enjoyed about Have Mercy is vocalist Swindle’s vocal technique: in their earlier releases his voice sounded much more gravelly and rough around the edges, and there was definitely more uncontrolled emotion and aggression. Now, however, his vocals are much more focused and precise, and it’s obvious that he’s developed his technique over the years. There’s still plenty of emotion, but these emotions are put across in a more refined way.
An example of this is the dark and angry Reaper, where Swindle fantasises about the death of his ex’s new boyfriend. The pre-chorus riffs fading to simple feedback when Swindle first sings “I cut the brakes on his Camaro” gives the track a creepy atmosphere, emphasising that threat. Good Christian Man is easily my highlight of the album: it’s an extremely melancholy song both instrumentally and lyrically, and his struggle to reconcile his beliefs as a Christian shows Swindle at his most vulnerable.
Plus, I’m not sure how they do it, but Have Mercy has a way of creating incredible atmosphere with their tracks. Whether it’s the layered guitars or cymbal heavy drums which create almost a white-noise effect, the Have Mercy listening experience stands out from other similar bands. Signed to Hopeless Records, the so-called emo revival, and recent influx of new alternative/indie/rock bands that this band is part of, can seem crowded. However, I think Have Mercy stand head and shoulders above the rest.
Considering the band’s radical upheaval last year, the title of Make The Best Of It could very well be an indicator of how Swindle felt about the album: these circumstances are less than ideal, but let’s try to work with what I’ve got. The results? An album which exemplifies growth as a musician, and achieving above and beyond personal expectations. If you weren’t sold on Have Mercy as a band before, now is the time to listen up and pay attention.
Highlights: Coexist, Begging For Bones, Reaper, Good Christian Man