Since 2008’s esteemed EP Brave Enough To Fail, More Than Life have metamorphosed from scrappy hardcore kids, with a distinct knack for penning memorable melodies, to perhaps the finest and most refined outfit in the healthily crowded sub-genre of melodic hardcore. It is, of course, a genre of paradox: vocal introspection and self-reflection are consistently on par with Morrissey’s levels of ultra-sensitive soul-baring, and it is he whose song ‘Angel, Angel Down We Go Together’ quite fittingly provides the lyric from which More Than Life derive their namesake. Yet, such pained contemplations are usually delivered with a vitriolic catharsis, a throat-shredding furore with which the hardcore contingent once typically rallied against social injustice and heavy-handed police tactics. Whilst hardcore’s more overtly aggressive sphere busy themselves with upping the stakes in terms of belligerence and sheer brute force, acts such as More Than Life, Landscapes and Hindsights ruminate upon fraught emotions whilst casting a net of visionary influence that spreads further than the genre’s self-imposed restrictions.
Their second full-length, What’s Left Of Me, is the fullest realization of More Than Life’s dynamic blueprint which was laid down in more rough-hewn terms within their debut full length Love Let Me Go. Now though, they’re afforded a markedly clearer production quality, allowing for the consideration of nuance and a newfound sonic depth which benefits these nine tracks to no end. First single ‘Do You Remember’ is a prime example- soft, even wispy backing vocals align with delayed guitar and sparse piano lines in perhaps the most instantly affecting outing on the record. Vocalist James gifts his once abrasive screams a melodic edge whilst sacrificing none of the startling conviction behind the delivery. It allows not only for greater clarity in lyricism; it cements the totality of the band’s conscious evolution toward tones that draw farther from the hardcore oeuvre which existed as the main pool of reference amongst their previous output. What is soon palpable is that the distance between More Than Life and their peers is growing, the band throwing off the shackles of their more overtly bellicose past and fronting practices concurrent with Brand New’s more hushed and laconic work. ‘Love Is Not Enough’s’ gorgeous closing coda provides succinct example: an acoustic passage made all the more mournful by the inclusion of a cello- always the go-to instrument with which to denote a sense of sorrow. That’s not to say More Than Life have totally uprooted themselves from their punk sensibilities, tracks such as ‘You’re Not Alone’ and ‘Weight of The World’ carry more than enough kinetic force to incite circle pits of ferocious tumult.
Much of the band’s once blistering drive has now given way to expansiveness. At times, almost shimmering guitars, now devoid of once overdriven tones, cut lyrical passages through the mix. Such a newfound emphasis on aural undercurrents proves More Than Life now possess a clearly defined cross-over sound that they can truly call their own. Of course, they could stand accusation of toning down their once visceral approach, but although they have successfully ridden themselves of clear-cut “mosh parts”, the same cannot be said for the lyrical output which has only been exacerbated in fraught disposition since their previous outings. Mathews offers a lyrical repertoire that is nothing short of a verbal self-flagellation, his reminiscence on lost love and youthful naivety subsumed in a melancholy that’s clearly painful to recollect. Yet, he does so unflinchingly, wearing his emotional scars for all to see.
With decidedly less outward rage with which to mask the bare sincerity of the lyrical palette, More Than Life, and James Matthews in particular, have enacted a particularly brave turn in direction that sees the hardcore influence diminished whilst the melodicism becomes the central facet. Ultimately, it is a development that has more than paid off and the band’s inclinations towards the epic, coupled with a more multi-dimensional approach to songwriting, such a move only points towards their devoted fan-base of sensitive souls growing exponentially.
4 out of 5 high fives!