Upon first listen Oh, Manhattan’s Spiritual Warfare might grab the average listener as a run of the mill post-hardcore album. The breakdowns are there, the screams are there, the gang vocals even make an appearance. And while you couldn’t be faulted for making that assumption based on the presence of these post-hardcore staples, you’d be missing exactly what it is that makes this album great.
While the heavy elements of your average post-hardcore album are there, it’s the spaces in between those elements that distinguishes Spiritual Warfare. Guitarists Kodi Gray and Chris Branton do exceptional jobs of creating atmospheres in the songs that make this album stand head and shoulders above their peers. Take track two. “The World Ends with You” for example. The opening moments of the song might fool you, but after the initial post-hardcoreisms of the song, the soaring vocal melodies and ambient guitars surprise the listener with something fresh in a scene too focused on the “br00tality” of every song.
While the lyrics are at times a bit cliched such as in songs like “The Anti Da Vinci,” the words are penned with a surprising subtlety. Vocalist Hance Alligood crafts his lyrics expertly and intelligently (any David Lynch fan will appreciate Guilty Blessings, Pt II) to fit the mellowness of the slowed down, atmospheric interludes as well as the crushing breakdowns that are sure to follow. Track seven “To the Gallows” (my personal favorite) is a good example, with Alligood crooning “there is comfort right in the eye of a hurricane” in the songs clean beginning and screaming with all his might “one, two, step left, right, left to the gallows!” at its annihilating end.
The album as a whole stands out from its contemporaries because of its ease of transition between ambient, high-pitched guitars to its head banging breakdowns. While some bands make the transition painfully and abruptly by interjecting a sad synth/dance part, Oh, Manhattan does it with a skill that is missing in the scene today. Songs such as “Face of Another” or “Ian Curtis” illustrate this perfectly.
As much as I wanted to find fault with a younger post-hardcore band, it was very difficult after listening to this album straight through. The melody is as captivating as the heaviness is exciting, and the best part: they know how to make them flow seamlessly together. For a band like Oh, Manhattan, an album like Spiritual Warfare is an exciting pedestal that will bring them to new heights and, I’m confident, be a big step in them realizing their obvious potential.