There’s a reason why the “group of tough white guys who are either straight-edge or sponsored by an energy drink” stereotype is so prevalent among hardcore, metal or nearly any other style of heavy music. Some of these bands are content with playing generic, one-finger guitar riffs in Drop D tuning and regurgitating stale lyrics, but for others, aggressive music offers the opportunity to tap into a broader spectrum of expression with screams, dissonant chords and primal rhythms.
When Seizures formed in Dana Point nearly 10 years ago, they were a fairly straightforward hardcore band. On their first full-length album, Antipathy, they displayed a solid understanding of their roots, as well as a slightly technical approach. They refined that sound over the course of their next few releases, most notably on the 2013 album The Sanity Universal, which featured a healthy dose of synthesizers and effects pedals. And with their newest record, Reverie of the Revolving Diamond, Seizures show not only how much they’ve matured, but also how they continue to push the limits of the genre.
“For the first record, I think the theme was just hate,” says bassist Buddy Porter. Indeed, Antipathy is full of punishing riffs and dark lyrics that were mostly written after Porter’s sister died from an accidental overdose. The sheer frustration and hostility that comes through in these songs are what put Seizures on the map. But for Reverie, the band distilled a wide range of influences into a sound that has been described as “surf core” and “beach math.”
Oftentimes, when bands cram unlikely styles together (for example, grindcore, ska and jazz), it comes across as unnatural or even novelty. But Seizures organically shift from angular melodies and odd time signatures to reverb-drenched ambience to angry hardcore and beyond. Much of the album’s fluidity is owed to guitarist Albert Navarro’s conceptual writing process. “[It] was actually pretty easy to go from place to place, or to go from polarized genres or whatever because it was basically just the telling of a story,” Navarro says. “If you look at a place and how the environment changes, it’s almost like a mental movie or something.”
While composing the music for the album, Navarro developed a vivid fictitious world with its own history and locations. In a recent feature on NoEcho.net, he mentions authors such as J.R.R. Tolkien and Philip K. Dick as influences, which makes sense, as Reverie feels both fantastical and dystopian. Scenes and, more important, moods unfold throughout each song.
“[Albert] always comes to me with a narrative and says, ‘What if this happened, and we could write a score for it?’” says vocalist Cameron Miller.
The band finished the “score” for the album before writing lyrics that matched the tone. This sonic storytelling is what blends tracks such as the introductory, atmospheric “Mazarine” and the frantic “The Cycles Unnumbered” together so seamlessly. “It’s a little bit like a dream, and each song has a particular instance of what’s happening,” Navarro says. “So ‘Mazarine’ would be the beginning; it’s almost like we’re approaching some gas giant that we’ve never seen before, way out in space. The next song is just like a downfall trajectory into this planet. The next song is like hitting the water. And it just goes on from there.“
Swift and dynamic changes frequently occur within the same track. “Bedlam Blues” takes the listener on a sprint through an obstacle course of time signatures and synth noise before finally landing on a good ol’ hardcore two-step. “Toxophola,” which features a guest appearance from Eighteen Visions’ Keith Barney, starts off with strummed chords that somehow sound surfy, erupts into a labyrinth of panic chords, then ends with a brutal, sludgy breakdown.
One track that would seem entirely out of place on nearly any other heavy album is “Atollian,” which features Porter’s dad on the bass. Vernon Porter, who made a living playing with the likes of Kenny Loggins and Bette Midler, adds a smooth, almost jazzy feel over the song’s fat groove and spacey chords. “It’s probably the most polarizing thing on the record, if you compare that to the chaotic stuff,” Navarro says.
While the music has its own narrative and feeling, the lyrics provide snapshots of emotions, memories, fears and ambitions. When the band members were writing words to match Navarro’s compositions, they looked to their own lives and surroundings for inspiration. “When people think about Orange County and little, quiet beach towns like Dana Point from an outside perspective, they think it’s all sunshine and happiness,” Porter says. “Growing up there, you can have a totally different experience. It is a town that is riddled with a lot of depression and a lot of drug overdoses.”
Navarro agrees. “You can tell there’s a myriad of life experience, be it terrible or good, when you listen to our stuff. That just clues you in to how many different experiences you can have in this so-called perfect place.”