Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania’s One Step Closer are one of hardcore’s brightest rising stars. Since their debut EP From Me To You was released on Triple B Records, the band have been destined to reach the pinnacle of hardcore with a fresh amalgamation of classic sounds. Their 2021 debut LP saw the band progress to leading indie label Run For Cover alongside the similarly-minded hardcore crossovers Fiddlehead and Fury (both also rising from straight-edge roots). Their sound has seen them take over where Turning Point left off with their later songs such as “Behind This Wall” and “Broken” (which the band covered on their 2020 Promo). While taking over classic straight-edge cues from them, they’ve blended it with post-hardcore and pop punk sensibilities of another legendary band in Title Fight. Songs For The Willow is their new, surprise-released three-song EP and their second release on Run For Cover. It sees the band expanding their repertoire and penchant for melody with more emo influences than before, burning as strong as ever despite the loss of their founding bassist.
“Dark Blue” was the lead single dropped before the full EP landed on January 11. It continues the sound the band had explored and hones on This Place You Know and finds a perfect balance between melody and harshness. While they’ve never really been a harsh band, there is an edge to their sound that most melodic and twinkly indie-type bands just can’t muster. Ryan Savitski’s vocals have really started to reach the forefront as they’ve managed to mix indie sensibilities with two-step parts and appeal to both sides of the coin around the scene. With a driving rhythm section and a dual-guitar sound both powerful and memorable, “Dark Blue” is possibly their finest song yet.
“Turn To Me” is another that was released as a single – a music video dropped as the EP came out. This is the most melodic the band have ever sounded. The chorus is stripped of almost any semblance of hardcore but with a refreshing immediacy. The verses similarly have a lot more in common with bands like Title Fight and Paramore than typical hardcore. The fact that they manage to pull this off is testament to their growth as a band. Most bands wouldn’t have the confidence to move away from their sound unapologetically, but it still sounds very much like them. The clean vocals overlaid with the shouted backing vocals lend a great balance and you can see this being an easy singalong at a show coming soon.
“T.T.S.P” (which means ‘This Too Shall Pass’) is the final of this trio of songs and again manages to find a balance between the melodic and the hardcore parts of the band. With a driving yet bright hardcore verse, very much a throwback to their earlier sound, “T.T.S.P” is another exciting song. The chorus is more melodic, with Savitski’s voice shining again with a raspy, clean delivery. The bridge has a shoegaze quality with effects over the vocals and a restrained but dense tone. The production stands out particularly here as it foregrounds the melody without losing any of the power you’d expect from the band.
Songs For The Willow is an interesting addition to the band’s discography. While still grounded in hardcore, they have continued to explore their softer side in an intriguing way that could easily backfire if not done correctly. One Step Closer are one of my favourite live bands as they have such an infectious, bouncy energy and while they have branched out and started to push their own boundaries, this new EP has retained what makes them so exciting.
One Step Closer are a band to keep a close eye on: their short career has seen them release some of hardcore’s finest music of the last five years. They shared a tour with Turnstile and opened during Have Heart’s comeback before the pandemic, and came out of the other side with appearances at massive hardcore festivals such as Outbreak Fest (2022 and a return in 2023), as well as their first EU headline tour. With shows like these and Songs For The Willow, the sky is the limit.
Header photo by Spencer Chamberlain