February 19, 2013 - Equal Vision
HRVRD inhabit the obscure ground between post-hardcore and alternative/indie rock, essentially sounding like what happens when emotional hardcore dudes discover effects pedals and spacey indie rock influences and put them to use with seriously creative ambition. While HRVRD’s members may or may not be hardcore dudes, that's really beside the point: Their sophomore LP, From The Bird's Cage is pretty excellent at delivering its own strain of this style.
Like their 2009 debut, The Inevitable And I (as Harvard), it wouldn't be far-fetched to draw comparisons to Circa Survive (think the bridge of "In The Morning And Amazing..."), in large part due to how similar frontman Jesse Clasen sounds to Anthony Green (who you'd think is outright singing the bridge of "Cardboard Houses"). And depending on your frame of reference, Clasen really resembles Cedric Bixler-Zavala, Claudio Sanchez or Brazil's Jonathon Newby on the vaguely sinister "Flaming Creatures." Still, Clasen's a fairly versatile character, with compelling pitch range and inflection from song to song, and plenty of his lyrical refrains stick hard despite the obscured nature of the themes at hand (societal decay? Interpersonal turmoil? It's anyone's guess, really.).
The band also apply some unique impressions themselves, crafting quietly intricate atmospheres with smartly layered guitars while smoothly gliding in the occasional bit of piano or trumpet. The aforementioned "Cardboard Houses" even manages to juxtapose a twangy shuffle on its verses with a stomping, snarling chorus calling for revolution without any of it sounding too forced.
From The Bird's Cage is a sneakily hooky and carefully moody collection of tracks that only seems to reveal its power after a few rotations. There's a tension that increases with the first couple tracks, and all throughout it develops a mysterious, foggy setting that hits its climax during the bridge of penultimate cut "Old Nature." While the transition itself is somewhat shoehorned, Clasen fittingly cooing like a distraught bird over dark, booming drums and sea-pounding guitars is straight-up chilling, and possibly the high point of the whole album as producer Brian McTernan gets all Mike Sapone on us. Following it with a surprisingly fitting piano ballad as closer "Eva Brücke," they strike pleasing final chords, solidifying just how good From The Bird's Cage is and signaling how much more delightfully weird and better this band might get in the near future.