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Never Back Down - Black & White Award winner

Never Back Down
Black & White
by Jon Conant at 16 July 2018, 11:05 AM

It’s been an amazing year for metalcore out of Germany, and the trend continues with the upcoming sophomoric release from NEVER BACK DOWN. “Black & White” is due out on August 24th via Dedication Records, and it’s 10 tracks of absolute hardcore/metalcore/djent carnage. NEVER BACK DOWN has pushed their sound even further than in their debut release, with the help of a record label for the first time (their debut full length and follow up EP were self-released). The resulting sound is one that plants textbook roots in hardcore, metalcore, and djent, but manages to take all of these elements and combine them into a sound that is unique to them, but most importantly, fresh and new sounding. It’s impressive that they’ve managed to strike this balance, especially being a young band. The sound is familiar without being derivative, and new without being un-relatable.

Minute and a half opener “Welcome To The Family” perfectly sets the stage for what the album is going to sound like, encapsulating all the best elements. I love a good intro track, and this one knocks it out of the park. A somber and atmospheric melody in the background during the beginning and the end, behind incredible harsh vocals from Daryl Mevißen, and then a middle section that firmly establishes the djent/beatdown sound that absolutely defines the album. It’s bassy, punchy, staccato, and heavy. The mix is near perfect and the production is spot on. All the instrumental parts bring out the best in each other, and the vocal lines are perfectly laid overtop.

The band has listed plenty of influences and “for fans of” that relate to their sound, but the most clear and obvious influence behind their sound stands out above the rest: STICK TO YOUR GUNS. They perfectly exemplify the bassy chug, but they do so in a more modern style, for the most part ditching the punk aspects. I personally love that, and for me it really elevates the music. They’ve taken all the best parts of hardcore, and left behind the aspects that don’t suit their sound, namely the punk drumming and quicker moments. NEVER BACK DOWN rarely takes things quicker than a steady chug, and often slows down to a glacial breakdown pace (particularly in the back half of the album, songs like “Sparks” and “Anger”).

Track 2 and lead single/title track “Black & White” is perhaps has the weakest moment of the album, which is a bit of chorus clean vocals that really don’t match the intensity of the music and feel a bit forced. But, being track 2, they get it out of the way quickly, and it only gets better from there. Later on in track 5 “March” we do hear clean vocals used again, but this time they are much better. They sound much less generic, the melody fits seamlessly into the heaviness in the song, the actual performance is better, and we even get some falsetto work that fits in flawlessly. However they do also show good discipline in moments where they could use clean vocals, but don’t, and it’s for the best. Track 4 “Unlearned” has a melodic chorus that would have been very easy to slip some generic cleans into, but they stick to a scream/sing sound that works perfectly, and demonstrates their decision making skills in understanding how to execute album variety.

There are occasional melodic moments scattered throughout the album, but for the most part the bassy beatdown/djent sound and harsh vocals are what define the music. My choice tracks are: “Unknown Graves”, “The Scars I Wear” (possibly the heaviest and most beatdown song on the album), “Sparks” (which combined electronic and melodic elements reminiscent of another young and talented djent band, THE BROKEN HORIZON), and closer “Never Enough” which is another candidate for heaviest song on the album, and a perfect way to finish things. A good closer is important, and they succeeded.

Middle of the album track “March” was also a choice number, and potentially the best overall performance. It has heavy moments, beatdown, but then an epic and melancholic melody in the chorus backed up by those vocals I mentioned earlier, which were PHENOMENALLY performed. It perfectly anchors the album being in the middle at track 5, and provides a seamless transition from the slightly more melodic front half of the album to the slightly more djent back half of the album. The ebb and flow of the album was perfect, it never stalls or drags, and the track ordering was perfect. That’s no small feat, a lot of bands fuck it up, and it made me really happy to see NEVER BACK DOWN nail the track order. This is an absolute slammer of an album. It’s fresh, unique, and catchy as all hell. It will be on repeat for me for quite some time. If you like hardcore, metalcore, beatdown, or djent, there’s a lot to love here. They made very few “mistakes”, and the ones they did make are forgivable/not unexpected (it’s hard to make a “perfect” album), and they don’t take anything away from the incredible album accomplishment that is “Black & White”.

Good job boys. Your first album on a record label, and you absolutely knocked it out of the fucking park.

Songwriting: 10
Originality: 9
Memorability: 10
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

1. Welcome To The Family
2. Black & White
3. Unknown Graves
4. Unlearned
5. March
6. The Scars I Wear
7. Sparks
8. Anger
9. Visions
10. Never Enough
Daryl Mevißen - Vocals
Caner Tatli - Guitar
Philipp K. - Bass
Tobias Hojka - Drums
Record Label: Dedication Records


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Edited 22 February 2019

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