Critical Voices: Sainthood Reps, Headswell

October 24, 2013

Sainthood Reps’ sophomore release, Headswell, blasts listeners with a head-clearing assault on the senses. With the release of their most recent collection of artful rock jams, the four-piece has stepped to center stage as a contender for the brightest musical spark from the Long Island, New York breeding ground for its now-characteristic strain of heavy, creative alternative rock.

The opener, “Shelter,” sets Headswell off to a furious start. Layered power chords and relentless drumming anchor the track in the post-grunge elements that have come to define Sainthood Reps’ sound, but the track hints at a new polish and attention to detail. The precise drum fill during the bridge, for example, spectacularly leads into the crashing, final chorus.

“Desert Song” continues the frantic pace but throws in a heavy dose of somber reflection with Francesco Montesanto’s striking vocals. Throughout Headswell, Montesanto carefully mixes a soft delivery during most verses with an intense barrage of emotion in every chorus.

The lyrics tell a story of pain, pity, and resentment, and the listener is left unsure if Montesanto hates the objects of his songs or morosely wishes them the best.

“The Last Place I Left You” rounds out Headswell’s spectacular opening. Progressively louder guitars rip into Montesanto’s lyrics as he chillingly chants “a phone call from nowhere / I never want to hear that wretched sound again” during the song’s outro.

“Run Like Hell” and the following title track command the middle of Headswell, with the former never letting up and the latter, alternatively, offering the most reflective lyrics and careful guitar work on the entire album.

Headswell’s only great misstep is its lackluster ending. “Rapture Addict” and the acoustic closer, “Breath Worth Breathing,” slow down the pace and turn down the distortion, but leave the listener yearning for a more climactic finish. The acoustic instrumentation and soft vocals do not fall as heavily or as memorably as the head-banging tracks on the front end of the album.

Its misguided closer aside, Headswell boasts track after track of powerful alt rock. Like the drowning swimmer depicted in the album’s cover, this record took a bold plunge and emerged dripping with the best elements to be found in the scene.


Voice’s Choices: “Run Like Hell,” “Desert Song”

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