Air Combat is an emo alternative/post hardcore band from Vancouver, B.C. and is made up of Sheldon Stenning, Tyler Zanon, William Langlais, and Evan Follweiter. Their new album "The Story of the Boy With the Stolen Name", available online March 13, was recorded in Vancouver at Rain City Recorders, was and mixed and mastered by Sam Pura at The Panda Studios (The Story So Far, Forever Came Calling, Hundredth, State Champs, etc.)
The very first thing I thought when I hit play on my phone was damn, these dudes are going for it. The production quality is impeccable, the performance is flawless, and the composition hits so hard. The easiest way to describe it is that this sounds like a Pure Noise or a Hopeless Records band, not an independent band going at it alone.
The record opens up on a very The Story So Far-esque drum and clean palm muted guitar riff accompanying a theatrical spoken word verse reminiscent of Max Bemis back when Say Anything played guitars. Within the first 2 and a half minutes, it's made clear what this band is all about. You're treated to a sweeping range of emotions guided by a dynamic composition and vocal performance by front man, Sheldon Stenning. I'm always impressed when an artist is capable of fitting so much into 1 song, and it's even more impressive when the average play time is under 3 minutes a song on this album, barring the short interlude.
Following the conclusion of the opening track, there is hardly time to catch your breath before the next song is out of the gate, ripping at a steady 11 pace almost the entire way through. To follow that is a seamless transition into the 3rd song, something I really appreciate, especially in concept albums such as this.
"No one has asked if you've been happy in years because we all know the answer"
-Air Combat "Trigger Warning (Falling On Deaf Ears)"
Taking a step back after weeks of listening to read all the lyrics, straight through without music, I began to admire this EP even more. As a concept album, every song is an extension of the last, unveiling another part of the story. Each song contains a call back, lyrically, to the previous song, and I felt it allowed me to connect much deeper with the songs. As someone who is in a pretty comfortable and stable point in my life, I felt I was appreciating the lyrics from a distance, but understanding the story as a whole allowed me to become an active participant in the unfolding of events. I highly encourage everyone to do to the same.
Sheldon Stenning, lead vocalist of Air Combat, has a vocal style I imagine to be polarizing. It's very theatrical, again, a la Max Bemis, with very raw screams that make me think it's 2003 and I'm in 8th grade again, and a tendency to over pronounce some words. All that said, I really dig it. He's willing to stand out in a crowd of chameleons and put everything on the line. It's the kind of voice you could pick out of a hundred, and is complimented wonderfully by drummer Tyler Zanon's.
The 2 nail some really powerful harmonies, and I've missed back and forth vocals since Brand New went underground years ago.
Musically, this album rips. Every member of the band is so good at what they do, and each is capable of flexing their abilities while not stepping on each other's toes, showing their maturity and cohesiveness as a band. They include some really cool rhythmic parts which I, as a drummer, really dig.
Perhaps the standout element on this record is the guitar work by William Langlais. In true post hardcore form, there are so many rad chords all throughout, and his dissonant leads amplify the intensity of the heavier parts by an order of magnitude. Zanon's drumming would make for a good workout to build some serious chops as well. Not only are his beats perfectly suited for the genre, but damn they are wicked and unique. He is certainly not one to shy away from spending an entire verse on the toms, and he does so with style. Extra points for sick hi hat accent patterns as well. In my opinion, that accounts for half of The 1975's popularity. My life in bands has been plagued by friends who wanted to be involved so "I guess they can just play bass". Not the case with Air Combat, as Evan Follweiter takes the reigns as Lord of the Low Frequencies, busting out some really nice licks that lets you know, he's not JUST the guy who plays bass, but a goddamn bassist. All these guys are in it to win it, and very very good at what they do.
I'll say this one last time. This 16 minute EP is absolutely killer. The only thing I could ask for is maybe another 16 minutes. However, I've listened just about every day for the past month and I'm definitely not tired of these songs. I can guarantee that when my 64gB iPhone inevitably fills up and some albums need to go, this will not be one of them. In fact, when Apple replaced my phone 2 weeks ago and I lost all my music (along with everything else), Air Combat was the 2nd thing I put back in my iTunes library. Sorry, but Blink-182 will always be #1.
I am very impressed with the overall quality of the album, sonically and musically, as well as their music video for "Distances/Smokes" (watch below). You can tell Air Combat has put an incredible amount of time into their presentation, and I'm confident if the right people hear this record, they'll be sharing a stage with the leaders of their genre. They are no doubt more than qualified to be playing with the big boys.
Their album will be available online March 13, and you can enjoy the music video for Distances/Smokes below. I haven't made up my mind yet, but this may be my favorite song on the album, and it's a great video with very high production quality.
Thanks for the great album guys. I look forward to jamming it for the years to come, and am hoping to see you touring in The States soon enough.