Review: Amarionette bounce back with “AMVRI” EP

The well-worn cliche is that the most potent art is borne out of adversity. Unforunately, when it comes to the world of music, albums stemming from certain forms of adversity have a mixed track record. Bands that go through periods of lineup changes or interpersonal conflict may immediately bounce back and produce more music deserving of their past status. However, just as often a band will falter following a major lineup change, and lose a key part of their identity along the way.

Such were the questions facing fans of Las Vegas’ rising progressive post-hardcore band Amarionette. Following the abrupt departure of vocalist and founder Quin White earlier this year, speculation swirled as to whether the band would continue the high caliber of their past output… or even sound like the same band at all. Fortunately, the band has come out swinging with the AMVRI EP, which immediately puts all doubts to rest about their capabilities and future. Continuing the same sonic theme as the band’s last few standalone singles (“Charm”, “Chemistry”, and the superb “Modern Disco”), the six-track project sees Amarionette embracing the groove and swagger of danceable pop rock, while losing none of their past instrumental prowess.

One of the most immediate points of speculation for Amarionette fans would be whether or not the band would be able to find a vocalist who would match the ability and distinctive style of Quin White. And in recruiting Spencer “Issy” Berry of fellow Las Vegas band Louder Than Words, they have found a singer who actually exceeds Quin in range and versatility, while also bringing a fresh vocal style to the group that’s all his own. Spencer is equally adept at getting the party started on the high-energy throwback opener “Baddest” as he is at grooving to the more subtle bounce of “Red Rover”, and his layered vocal harmonies throughout the EP are a real treat for fans of well-written pop music vocals. His vocals are more indebted to soul and R&B than Quin’s, sounding at times like the progressive scene’s answer to Nick Jonas or Bruno Mars. Fortunately, the instrumentation, composed primarily by lead guitarist Nick Raya, is well-suited to Spencer’s nimble voice and pop music influences. While the band still retains much of their progressive influence, this is counterbalanced by a stronger element of pop songwriting structure and an emphasis on groove. Bassist Ron Wells’ performance is a highlight throughout, as his intricate fills give the songs much of their momentum. Standout track “In The Moment” adeptly blends the sounds of the band’s past and future, anchored by an extremely catchy hook by Spencer.

This is not to say that the band’s first release with their new lineup is completely without growing pains. Most notably, while Spencer’s lyrics do fit the fun-times atmosphere of the music, the emphasis on the well-worn pop songwriting themes of girls, partying, drinking, the weekend, and more girls leave little lasting impact beyond that offered by the instrumentation and vocal performance themselves. While the high-quality performances and overall engaging atmosphere on display throughout AMVRI do much to make the listener want to return, additional lyrical depth on future releases would likely do a lot to give the songs greater replay value. As it stands, however, Amarionette have easily proven themselves capable of soldiering on following the loss of their founding vocalist, bouncing back with a strong, engaging collection of songs that promises a bright future ahead.

Rating: 4/5