ALBUM REVIEW: We Were Sharks makes old material fresh, lacks new material on 'Highways'
When it comes to easycore, there are two major strains: bands that use synth and bands that don’t.
This didn’t happen out of the blue. The inclusion of synthesizers in easycore music was around during the early years of the genre’s popularity with bands like Four Year Strong and The Wonder Years. While it’s odd that bright and fuzzy synth lines work so well in a genre that also takes influences from metalcore, it definitely fits the format when used.
One of the bands from Canada that falls into the “uses synth” category is the Ottowa-based group We Were Sharks. The band, previously known as Sharks! (get the name change?), already has two EP’s under their belt, but "Highways" is their first full-length release. What is to be expected from this debut full-length?
For starters, the majority of the content on "Highways" comes from their past releases. All the tracks off the Holy Rip! EP and Three For Free EP appear on the full-length with the exception of Holy Rip! EP’s Ke$ha cover. However, these are not direct inserts; each song has been re-recorded.
While the production of the original EPs were already great, "Highways" goes above and beyond. The crispness of the starting track “Welcome to the Show” is phenomenal, leaving a striking aural imprint as the song rings on, and the intro breakdown to “Glory Days” is just like how Sir Mix-A-Lot likes his butts: real, thick and juicy. It’s apparent that new life has been breathed into these older tracks.
With older songs taking up so much of the track list, there are only three originals to fill in the gaps. However, each of these three are completely on par with how We Were Sharks sounds. “A Summer on Elm Street,” “Stay Outta Riverdale (feat. Jon Desilva)” and “Highways (Over The Top)” all make for perfect additions.
The actual content is fantastic, especially with some of the additions to the older songs. Switching between guitar-laden riffs and buzzing synth lines, the sounds are attention grabbing, for sure. The insane hook in “The Blackout Anthem” stands tall with how catchy it is, and the synth line in “Keep Your Head Up Kid” is instantly iconic. Also “Go West, Young Man” gets some new writing with a big booming climax at the end of it, no longer making it the somewhat-weak acoustic ballad it used to be.
Singer Randy Frobel sounds confident in the recordings, allowing the production value to showcase the finer sides of his voice. While he spends most of the time trying to match the aggression in the music occasionally (like in “When Push Comes To Shove”), you can see the softer side of his singing.
The only knock against "Highways" is that it seriously could have used some newer content, but not to the point where older songs shouldn’t have made the cut. With the combination of old and new, "Highways" is a full-length We Were Sharks should be proud of.
4.5 out of 5 stars Genre: Easycore