For those keeping score at home, emo is currently enjoying a so-called “fourth wave” revival, with bands as disparate as The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die and Title Fight falling under the catch-all movement. And though Milwaukee and the Midwest have a rich history of “second wave” emo in groups like Cap’n Jazz and The Promise Ring, the city’s current emo landscape is limited to just a handful of groups (Estates, for example). That changes with the release of the new self-titled EP from Milwaukee’s Bright Black. It’s a five-track record as big, brash, and agreeably angst-y as the four-member band behind it.
Falling on the more hardcore/post-punk end of the emo revival spectrum, Bright Black wastes little time with opener “Deserter.” Featuring a pounding intro from drummer Steve Vorass, guitarist Josh Paynter, and bassist Matt Miller, the track kicks into high-drama gear with vocals courtesy of Jason Locklear. “So tie me up / And give me a name / Beat me like an animal without refrain / When I get mine, I’ll put my life back on the line,” wails Locklear. It’s par for the course: “Crowded Room” is alternately defiant, soaring, and self-destructive; “Neon” scores big on an unexpected scream-y middle bit; “Ivy League” darkly channels the real-life story of a 19-year-old University of Pennsylvania track star who jumped to her death from a Philadelphia parking garage; and album standout “Valhalla” goes full roaring death metal on its “Vacant from the room / The dead have left the tomb” chorus.
Recorded at Howl Street Studio and mixed and mastered by Tyler Spratt, Bright Black is an unapologetic statement of purpose from a band paying tribute to its influences while still confidentially looking ahead. The phrase “bright black” may be an oxymoron, but the band of the same name is nothing if not clear, driven, and refreshingly direct.
Bright Black will celebrate the release of its EP Friday, August 12 at Landmark Lanes. Faux Fiction and Ion will play in support. The show (in Landmark’s “Moon Room”) is $5.