by guest contributor Dana Silverman
No track encapsulates this dynamic better than “Brand New,” which opens the record with a somber military drumbeat and far-off chords. Brown’s singing voice stands out in a genre dominated by guttural-sounding frontmen; it complements the heavy guitar reverb quite nicely and hearkens back to a wave of softer, emo-influenced voices, à la Dave Elkins of Mae. After the muted intro, “Brand New” surges forward and layers of filter fall away, lifting Brown to anthemic new heights as a vocalist.
Credit Norphlet’s songwriting talents for the fact that the track remains a coherent, crowd-surf ready rocker in the midst of its tempo shifts and energy conversions. Meanwhile, the lyrics infuse the song with a haunting quality that further distinguishes “Brand New” as more than a mid-aughts throwback. Starkly vivid images — transient spirits, torrid oceans, wild birds — communicate a plight of despair and grief, but thanks to the duo’s thoughtful presentation, they evoke a morbid beauty rather than maudlin sentiment.
If “Brand New” reminds you of 30 Seconds to Mars, or Rise Against with less of an edge, it’s likely due to Norphlet’s aptitude for imbuing high energy rock numbers with meaning and melody — not a bad place to be for a band that only formed this year.