Album Review: Save Face – ‘Merci’

Posted: by The Editor

There’s something to be said for the concept album. It’s an ambitious way for an artist to remove themselves from the status quo of their musical identity and create something refreshing and new. With alternative rock genres such as emo, punk and pop punk, there is such a lengthy history of sound that eventually it all became derivations of itself and turned into an amorphous blob of the same tones and timbres. However, with a concept record that puts artistry first and the quo of “genre” after, it can allow for a refreshingly new musical identity to form. This is what Save Face have done with their debut LP released on Epitah Records,  Merci.

Power packed with 14 tracks filled with anguish, misery and a rich sense of artistry, Merci, is a record that doesn’t put the expectations of a certain genre first, but rather emphasizes the importance of honest art, that is true to the artist’s intentions. Because of that, Merci is able to take a steady lead out of the gate. As stated in an interview with fellow The Alternative contributor, Luciano Ferrara,  vocalist/guitarist Tyler Povanda explained, “In an effort to sort through the feelings/experiences that I wanted to write about, I thought about writing characters…I could put the parts of myself that I wanted to into these characters, and then exaggerate them…”

Beyond the deep narrative of the record, the music is phenomenally crafted and avoids being a derivation of prior alternative releases. For fans of Save Face’s  EP , Folly, there is much to love about this record. Between the lavish chords and progressions, dynamic and often theatrical vocal delivery, this is Save Face through and through. However, the group dives much further into the core of what makes the groups signature sound and have truly expanded on their it in a way that continues to separate them away from the pack.

Trading the often twinkly leads in Folly for more aggressive and in your face riffs like that of “Weak” or “Reds”, Merci streamlines to a more straightforward rock sound on the surface. But goes much deeper than that with face-melting guitar solos, the gorgeous arrangement of every single song and the slew of timbres and tonalities. Not to mention a perfectly balanced rhythm section that creates a tight pocket and defines the cadence of each song. On top of it all is a fantastic vocal performance from the group, backed by huge multi-part harmonies, call-and-response vocals and guttural screams, it all create twists and turns that make this record enjoyable from the first moment to the very last.

One thing to praise is Povanda’s ability to truly enter the character and become someone else on this record. Though it’s clearly Tyler’s voice, it often feels like a completely different person is telling the tragedy of the album’s characters Kaleb and Blake, if not one of those characters themselves. This all comes through Povanda’s lyricism which creates such a vivid and heartbreaking stage for which the records concept may take place. This is then carried through by the visual aspect that Save Face have created for this record, an ambitious and artistic feat of its own. Lines like  “…while she begs on her knees saying, “Why can’t you tell me what I did to deserve this? Oh God, just send me to Hell.” But she’s no sinner, no matter how bitter; how poor…” are so visually specific that one can’t help but to see that mother grieving and vicariously experience the pain of it. It’s heartbreaking and miserable in the most satisfying way.

Merci, while ambitious for a debut LP, meets each expectation and often exceeds them. This record is so damn good, that often words aren’t enough to explain it. Rather, take the time out of your day to listen to these songs, read the lyrics and watch the visual version. There is so much to pull from this record that by not investing in it the way the band has since it’s conception is doing yourself a disservice.

Disappointing / Average / Good / Great / Phenomenal

Jacob Fishman

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