The day that Circa Survive tragically announced their indefinite hiatus was one that will forever live in infamy in the hearts of alt-kids around the world. What may already feel like the darkest alternate timeline has turned yet another shade darker and now we are left to cope with this actuality, on top of everything else going on. I was imagining this news leaving a gaping hole in our hearts that was too wide for a thread of any length to sew back shut, but yet we are given that thread anyways with L.S Dunes’ debut release, Past Lives. For once our bleeding hearts can be mended and that is a feeling that I am not entirely familiar with.
Although Circa Survive are no longer making music, founding member and vocalist, Anthony Green, continues his highly prolific musical career in the form of various additional projects apart from the band that he is most known for. From his solo material to his time in Saosin and The Sound of Animals Fighting (who are back from the dead and putting music out soon!), it couldn’t be any clearer that music courses through Anthony’s arteries and veins and now we have the brand spankin’ new L.S. Dunes. It wouldn’t be called a supergroup with just one highly known and influential figure onboard, right?
Matter of fact, L.S. Dunes is the textbook definition of a supergroup, consisting of greats from various 2000s legacy bands that reigned supreme in the world of alternative/progressive rock and post-hardcore. Not only do we have Green’s iconic vocals to instantly latch onto, but Travis Stever (Coheed and Cambria) teams up alongside Frank Iero (My Chemical Romance) on guitars, while Tim Payne (bass) and Tucker Rule (drums; both of Thursday) come together as a package deal, comprising one hell of a rhythm section. As is obvious from the music, this isn’t any of their first rodeos, as they apply their road-tested experience and musical prowess to bring Past Lives to life.
Past Lives truly sounds as if each member is channeling their past ‘musical life’ (as in the sound that defined their respective band(s)) into L.S. Dunes, creating this constantly evolving yet comfortably familiar post-hardcore sound; one that we’ve been yearning for to take us back to simpler times but with a modern twist. We are fortunate to witness absolutely feral harsh vocals from Green as heard on lead single, “Permanent Rebellion”, and sprinkled tastefully throughout Past Lives. I can’t forget to include his seductive, buttery sung vocals during the more laid-back segments, especially gorgeous on the bluesy closing track, “Sleep Cult”. While the obvious focus here may be Green’s performance, each member’s contribution has a ‘voice’ that is just as distinguishable and vital as Green’s.
Stever’s bouncy, intricate guitarwork with Coheed and Cambria was the most influential when it came to the formation of what is now my taste in music and even led to me picking up guitar. You can only imagine how ecstatic I was to hear that bleed into Past Lives all while taking on a new light, notably on “Like Forever” and “Grifter” for example. Not to mention how well Iero’s playing complements him and vice versa. After falling witness to the undeniable chemistry that Stever and Iero have, I am of the conviction that the guitar duo on L.S. Dunes goes together like peanut butter and jelly, to the same degree of effectiveness that we hear on Coheed and Cambria. From frantic, dizzying leads vaguely reminiscent of Kurt Ballou’s (Converge) iconic playstyle utilizing blisteringly fast hammer-ons and pull-offs, to dialed back moody guitar bliss, there is nothing Iero and Stever can’t accomplish together.
All these melodies and harmonies mean absolutely nothing if the rhythm setting the foundation for those melodies and the music as a whole is non-existent, which couldn’t be further from the truth with Payne and Rule laying some serious groove. Tracks like “Grey Veins”, “Blender”, and “It Takes Time” feature some prominent bass lines that has me redirecting my attention away from the rest of the song towards that specifically. The bass tone is especially juicy and stands out crystal clear in the mix, which isn’t something you hear quite often as the bass gets buried deeper than Marianas Trench in this style of music for the most part. It is icing on the cake that the bass lines have their own personality that I find getting stuck in my head more than anything on this record and those are big words for a project with Green’s careening vocals and Iero/Stever’s hypnotic guitar leads at the melodic forefront.
While the bands of members that comprise L.S. Dunes may be somewhat inactive, the musical tenacity of said members is anything but. The lit matches (or candle wicks) on the album artwork depict five specific individuals that when together, burn brighter than they have on their own in recent years and the music heard on Past Lives is full testament to that. While supergroups aren’t always as such, L.S. Dunes is greater than the sum of its already colossal parts, making for a landmark post-hardcore record that pushes the genre forward while simultaneously feels so familiar and nostalgic.