Thanks to bands like Employed To Serve, Pallbearer, and the now sadly on hiatus Oathbreaker; the underground scene of alternative music seems to be garnering the same amount of attention and respect as it did in the mid 90’s when bands like Rancid and Sick Of It All were slaying any club that were brave enough to book them.
Palm Reader have spent the last 7 years being the very embodiment of what you loved about underground music to begin with: mesmerising work ethic and palpable attitude. Their no frills approach has seen them become an outfit you’d love to see succeed their own expectations, but by the same token – the quintet have truly made a home for themselves within their underdog intimacy, and it’s an intimacy you’d hate to ever see them leave behind.
Third record Braille does its best to marry mosh call guitar lines with academy venue sized melody, it’s a concept that opens up a new realm of opportunity for the band to explore – although at times it does feel like this album is Palm Reader finding their feet rather than leading the race.
Don’t be alarmed, the rugged brutality of the band is still feverishly present here, hefty riffs and passion soaked screams still stem throughout the record… but it’s with a slight twist. As opposed to the rip-roaring pace found on Palm Reader tracks like ‘Pedant’ and ‘Always Darkest’ here efforts like ‘Intertia’ and ‘Internal Winter’ present a more methodical, melody lead approach. It’s an interesting take on the Woking crews’ math-like rhythms, but there’s a drop in intensity that at times takes away from the ultra heavy backbone of the band.
Six-minute slogs ‘Dorothy’ and A Lover, A Shadow’ are where the record rids itself of its shackles and hits at relentless full throttle. The blend between heavy and melody is perfectly balanced, the choruses are supported by gargantuan riffs; if Palm Reader build on this they’re sitting on an absolute goldmine.
Simply put though, Palm Reader’s throws at anthemic climaxes throughout Braille aren’t as impactful as the brutality that precedes them – and ‘Coalesce’ is an example of this jarring ebony and ivory. The mixture of synth and high octane guitar work build a high level of intrigue before an average chorus rears its head that just feels mediocre when compared to some of the uninhabitable ferocity we’ve heard from the band over the last 7 years.
Braille is a record that sets a solid enough foundation for where Palm Reader seemingly want to go, and it’s one of those instances where you sense that if the band take what they’ve learnt here and applied experience to it, their next album could be truly something special in terms of a musical shift, but Braille feels very much like the pre-show leading up to the main event. Make no mistake, Palm Reader are still a high-quality band well worth investing your time in, but this record may take some a while to acclimatise to.