The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a keepsake as “something kept or given to be kept in memory of a person, place, or happening.” As creatures of higher thinking, we have an innate ability to create and attach meaning to places and objects within our environment, to our relationships with other creatures, and to our own physical forms and sense of self for the purposes of identity. Sometimes these items that we so fiercely hold on to can manifest themselves in old valentine’s gifts, collectible ornaments, old postcards and letters, pressed plant leaves, or to things like those sweet (or creepy, depending on how you view them) Precious Moments baby figurines. Sometimes these items serve as gentle reminders of an old friend or family member, a moment, and/or a pleasant memory. Sometimes, the reverse may happen- the keepsake item either takes on a new negative form over time (for instance, if an old friendship has ceased) or if someone has gifted you a reminder of a time, place, event, or person that you would much rather prefer to forget.
Unfortunately, the latter can be said for Pyro, Ohio’s Keepsakes.
The first alarm bell that began violently ringing was the introductory title track, which primarily features electronic elements of rising synths and a few sort of eerie tones that are stylistically a bit reminiscent of Linkin Park’s “Numb.” Faded raw mid screams from vocalist Peter Verity predictably peak through within the first 20 seconds, which rise in crescendo with the rest of the instrumentation which has- smartly- kept its hold on the forefront of your ears. Just as fast as this ensemble of sounds was ramping up, so were my concerns. An introductory track should not only draw in the intrigue of the listener, it also typically sets the tone for the entire album. The issue I had here lies in the overall predictability of the music itself. I’ve heard this before. I know I’ve heard this before. I know that you’ve heard this before, too. Have Pyro, Ohio just sent me a message that I can expect the rest of the album to be as uniform, invariable, and uninspiring as the rest of the album?
The answer (disappointedly) came to me with a resounding “Yes.”
As “Keepsakes” lead straight into the next track, “It’s Not My Cup Of Tea, But I’ll Drink It,” I recognized the source immediately: the infamous 2009-era Myspace-core; the Queen of electronic-heavy post-hardcore instrumentation and nasally tenor vocalists. Pyro, Ohio does not fail to deliver in all of these elements- nasally vocals and raw mid-screams reminiscent of I See Stars’ earlier work, overdriven breakdowns that are as predictable as Emmure’s typical and monotonous 0-0-0 breakdowns, and background melodic riffs that are left unappreciated as they are dialed far too down. I will give their drummer, Brennan Wilson, a lot of credit, as he puts forth a fantastic display of footwork and some magnificent rolls that are laden within this track. But one instrumentalist can’t carry the whole band, and as a result, the output can be best described as a passable relic.
This uniform trait of predictability continues well into the album, ravaging every track and decimating the entire album as Keepsakes is further and further pushed out of my memory and into the nearest museum display case for mediocre early-2000s teenage angst. However, there’s always one element that takes me by surprise with its execution and finesse. For instance, Verity’s sudden commanding forcefulness in his screams in “The Genie Should Just Stay in the Bottle” (herein referred to as “The Genie”) and “The Truest Reflection” bring a darker, heavier depth to his vocal delivery. Guitarists Whalen and Noel present some excellent melodic arias and riffs in “The Genie” and the fantastically haunting intro and interlude to “The Truest Reflection.” In fact, the musician who audibly put in the most stake and work into most (but still not all) of the album is Wilson, who frequently showcases his quick footwork, creative cymbal play, and some magnificent fills and rolls. The problem is that these aforementioned pleasantries are infrequent and passing, whereas the monotonous unvariedness of the rest of the instrumentation takes the forefront as the most consistent work presented throughout the album and drowns out all of these shining flecks of musical aptitude. Such an offense in musicality is also completely and utterly disappointing and insulting to the listener: Pyro, Ohio has the capacity to perform better and deliver a better, more wholesome and effortful product, yet time and time again chose not to, instead dropping on your ears an album full of tracks that are dated, monotonous to the point of indistinguishableness, and successfully preserves Myspace-core’s heinous monstrosity of ridiculously and unnecessarily verbose track titles.
What Pyro, Ohio desperately needs is some revitalizing and a proper cleaning. If Verity could eliminate the abrasively nasal quality of his clean vocals and develop his delivery so that breaks away from that long-deceased early I See Stars and Chiodos-esque stylistic approach, if Whalen and Noel could turn their focus to rendering and pushing more of those gorgeous melodic elements to the forefront and swapped their aggressive hap-hazardous placement of breakdowns for more controlled and purposefully implemented breakdowns, and if bassist Daniel McClanahan could actually become an audible member of the band and implement his own personal flairs in his grooves, this band could definitely bear some heavy weight within their genre and the greater Alternative community.
If anything, Keepsakes is a rushed, lackadaisical effort- a definite eyesore in the name of the post-hardcore community as its focus is less in the maturity of the band’s sound and more in the preservation of an era of music that no longer resonates within its community. In short, Pyro Ohio’s Keepsakes is a conglomerate of amateur mistakes and insultingly egregious errors- a relic of the past that is best left forgotten. (Katt Hass)
For Fans Of: Chiodos, Crown the Empire, A Skylit Drive