Review: Am( )ra – In Lieu Of EP

10659395_1458866374376016_5069573444966436260_nAm( )ra is the Philadelphia suburbs’ best kept secret. The self-dubbed “genreless” band has been playing live and making a name for itself as an energetic, emotional roller coaster. In Lieu Of is the band’s debut EP and it lives up to the hype Am( )ra has been building for months.

The EP kicks off with Am( )ra’s first single “Hollow Bastion,” one of those instantly-catchy melodic hardcore jams that will have whole crowds screaming at the top of their lungs. “Hollow Bastion” is representative of everything that In Lieu Of is: well-crafted, emotional and, frankly, beautiful.

Harsh vocalist and frontman Billy Zee is outstanding throughout the album; this much emotion hasn’t been present in a scream since Touché Amoré put out Parting the Sea. Clean vocalist and guitarist Tristan Wikler is like pop punk’s red-headed cousin, balancing out the scales between roughness and melody naturally. When the two vocalists mesh, a sort of aggressive beauty is achieved. Zee can also be heard in half-yelled, half-spoken word moments that tug at the heartstrings.

Am( )ra’s greatest strength is in their ability to take a formula that has been said (yelled) and done before and keep it sounding exciting. Not many bands could pull of gang vocals calling out “Screamin’ ‘fuck your shit,’” but Am( )ra manages to do so with convincing authenticity. One only needs to hear “McKenzie” to witness Am( )ra’s gift at keeping old ideas fresh; what should be a run-of-the-mill pop punk song is a scream-it-from-the-top-of-your-lungs banger that will have fans of hardcore and defenders of pop punk in the pile-on.

No discussion of In Lieu Of would be complete without mentioning “7414,” the heart-wrenching emotional moment in which Zee screams “Why the fuck am I giving up?” It’s a vulnerable, poignant moment and it’s moments like that that make In Lieu of an incredible EP.

In Lieu Of has solid production as well. Am( )ra sounds like they stumbled from the garage into the studio — the EP isn’t overly-polished, but it’s certainly no slouch in terms of quality. It’s a testament to staying true to one’s sound without garage-quality production.

Am( )ra’s future could hardly look brighter with In Lieu of on the horizon. The EP is six tracks of emotionally charged honesty with a writing style that spans genres. In Lieu Of is not simply music, but the work of a band of exceptional storytellers with an exciting enthusiasm and creativity.

(In Lieu Of does not currently have a set release date.) 

Stream the debut single “Hollow Bastion” here: