Benton Falls – Fighting Starlight

Benton Falls
Fighting Starlight

I’m not sure if it would be fair to say that this is the most Deep Elm-sounding release to be issued by Deep Elm in a while or not. But fans of Deep Elm’s incredible bands – from Camber to Brandtson to Cross My Heart – will certainly fall in love with the highly talented California band Benton Falls on this, their debut full-length.
Describe the music? Driving guitars complimented by melodic guitarwork and powerful rhythms. Sound a little something like how I describe those pesky “emo” albums? Hell yeah, it is. In the vein of the aforementioned bands and such favorites as Penfold and Mineral, Benton Falls could certainly be described as an emo band, and that’s most definitely not a bad thing. With Michael Richardson’s distinctive emotional vocals and the band’s almost impeccable tightness, this could be one of the most accomplished albums in the genre, and that’s saying a lot.
From the first chords of “All These Things,” you get a sense of the melodic/power-chord dichotomy of Benton Falls, as the song has bursts of guitar yet a more melodic, moving feel to it. And that makes it all the more powerful as Richardson sings, “I love you too much.” They’re not afraid to slow things down a bit, like on “Swimming With You,” whose power chords (guitarist Gerb was in Ethel Meserve) remind me of a more 80’s rock mentality but sound perfectly in place here. The more powerful title track is quite likely the standout here, and Richardson shows he can scream as well as sing, which coupled with layers of driving guitars and crashing drums makes this song my favorite on the album.
The layers of guitar on “Always Behind a Smile” lend a very emphatic, energetic feel, coupled with moments of screaming and some very powerful rhythms. The driving choruses of “June Port Bridge,” coupled with a quieter, more dramatic feel, remind me a bit of the more layered approach of a band like Appleseed Cast. The more melodic “No Hero” is in contrast to its darker tone, as Richardson sings very straight-forward, “I remember the first time I saw you on heroin / a hero in my eyes / a hero in disguise.” Starting with that song, the band gets more melodic, with “Coastal” and “Back to Nothing” having their moments of more driving rock but being, for the most part, more restrained and subtle. Although by it’s end, “Back to Nothing” has built to such a crescendo that it feels even more immense and powerful. And it’s a nice prelude to the closer, “Eudora,” a long, complex yet lovely instrumental that’s melodic and has some fantastic guitar lines.
I don’t think I can stress enough how tight this band is. The guitar is powerful and sometimes astounding, and Richardson’s vocals fit perfectly. This band’s debut is one of the most powerful rock albums of the year, driving and complex yet emotionally charged. Fans of the more melodic emo style will love this, as will aficionados of a more straight-ahead rock style.