By: Scott Bowden

Loma Prieta | website | facebook | twitter |  

Released on October 2, 2015 via Deathwish Inc.

I remember the first time I heard Loma Prieta. It was 2008 and it was a cold and wet Scottish Autumn. I had managed to get a copy of their album Last City and remember thinking that it was a great record that was a step above some of the other stuff that was coming out at the time, it was the perfect soundtrack to my season. Then 2009 came, and they dropped a personal favourite of mine. Dark Mountain was a short and frantic emotional hardcore record with huge, epic sections which pushed them above and beyond everything else at the time. I regard it as a classic, and I highly recommend it if you have never heard it.

Dark Mountain brought them some much deserved attention, so when they released LIFE/LESS, Deathwish came knocking. Deathwish started distributing all previous releases and eventually repressed some of this album long after they were out of print. You could see at this point which direction they were headed. Straight to the point, punk fuelled frantic hardcore that absolutely bled passion from every pore. I thought that LIFE/LESS lacked something that made Dark Mountain so great, but it made up for that with sheer raw intensity. The follow up to that was their official début for the label. IV was an extension to the style they offered up on LIFE/LESS, just with more hooks. I could be wrong, but I am under the impression that it was the band’s most successful album to that point. It strengthened their following and with their relentless touring schedule, they were unstoppable.

This year marks the arrival of Self Portrait, the fifth album from Loma Prieta, and with the most significant change in sound since 2009, it really is a rewarding listen. For the most part, gone are the frantic blast beats and the intense speeds, in their place is a whole lot of melody and feeling, and whilst they have certainly never lacked either of those before, this record turns to show a whole new face of the band. It really is the perfect mix of everything their career has offered up this far, the balance is actually quite something to behold. Listen to the track ‘More Perfect’ to see what I mean. It’s a great mix between melancholic beauty and intense noise.

The trademark sounds are still there, just more refined. It’s nice to be able to hear what the guitars are doing for a change, and the drums rarely sound over driven and chaotic. It allows their sound to breathe better from all angles and it works remarkably well for them. The vocals are toned down for the most part. Both vocalists have retired (for the most part) their trademark and instantly recognisable screams for a more restrained and melodic shout. It works wonderfully on record.

It’s nice to see a few nods to the bands of old who once made this genre and Loma’s roots so great. At points you hear similarities to Yaphet Kotto on this record (one of the best bands in the genre) and City of Caterpillar, be that intentional or unintentional. Loma have crafted and captured their most honest and passionate album of their career so far. They have finally found a balance that works for them, and it shows. The album is engaging on every level, and offers something new, yet faithful for old fans to cherish. This may even be better than Dark Mountain. Time will tell, but one thing is for sure, this will be an end of year best in my list.

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