Honest, soul-baring rock is in short supply these days. There seems to be a plethora of bands making music on both sides of the spectrum: so raw it grows hair on listeners’ chins or so mopey it could make a timid goth blush. But there’s a sweet spot, right between those two extremes, where crunchy guitars blend with heartfelt melody and blood-curdling screams join forces with tender lyrics. The sound is one that Baltimore’s Have Mercy has pinned down on “Ancient West,” a track from upcoming release The Earth Pushed Back.
Have Mercy’s sound is not about “#feelings” so much as it’s about actual feelings. Channeling the heyday of “emo rock,” the band has a grip on simple-yet-effective vocal hooks, alternating shimmering/distorted guitars, and, as is the case with “Ancient West,” a hearty chant that brings back the warm (and sweaty) nostalgia of mosh-pit sing-alongs.
The band owes this authenticity in part to J. Robbins, who produced its upcoming album. Robbins, former Jawbox front-man and producer for bands such as The Dismemberment Plan, The Promise Ring, and Against Me!, played a central role in the sound of The Earth Pushed Back. “J. lets you do what you want to do but also lets you know when an idea is completely ridiculous and terrible,” says vocalist/guitarist Brian Swindle. “He has a ‘no holds barred’ attitude when it comes to getting perfect guitar tones and an open mind for experimentation. The dude rocks.”
Pre-order the album here and check out “Ancient West” below.