June 03, 2014 - Rise
It’s amazing what a great vocalist can do for a band. That’s not to say the players in Atlanta’s Nightmares are slouches; in fact, Suspiria is one of the better modern metalcore albums in recent memory. But frontman Carter Hardin is a star here; pouring everything he has into these songs, to the point where it’s impossible not to wonder where the heck he came from. Being from Atlanta, we like to think Hardin and the rest of his band were inspired by the almighty Norma Jean, one of the forefathers of this kind of grooved-out, riff-heavy hardcore. Hardin’s style is similar to Norma Jean’s Cory Brandan, mixing shouts and screams with breaking melody. Sure, Hardin slips into the trappings of his peers (after all, these guys are still young pups), getting alternately growly and sing-songy, but, still, he’s got something that a lot of vocalists his age don’t: pure, true emotion.
Although the album’s scary-movie theme (songs are named after popular horror films and Stephen King books) is a little immature, it’s a workable focus point for this quickly maturing band’s debut album. (And hey, it worked for Anthrax.) Where Nightmares excel is in their ability to stay away from the standard effects and trappings of screamo/modern metalcore/whatever-you-want-to-call-it and push through with the kind of riffs, chord progressions and song structures more suited for the likes of Machine Head and the Bled rather than the bands producer Drew Fulk and mixer David Bendeth have worked with recently (Cursed Sails and Of Mice & Men, respectively). Fulk does slip in the requisite stutter-step effects here and there (the “blah, blah, blah” one in “Tourist Trap” is a bit embarrassing), but mostly he lets Nightmares play to their strengths, like the extended scream therapy session of “Carnival Of Souls,” the mellow, almost trip-hoppy “Enter The Void” or the glitchy, weirdo electronics of “The Tommyknockers,” with its falsetto echoes and screamed refrains.
Expect really big things from Nightmares. In the meantime, Suspiria is a very impressive debut.