CD Review: Black Mesa – Little Positive EP

B

lack Mesa represents a style of music that isn’t very common in Bellingham. The Post-hardcore/screamo thing takes a lot of polish and creativity in order to deliver something worthwhile, as harping on the themes and emotions typical of the genre is a precarious edge to tread. With the Little Positive EP, they have a well-recorded release to establish who and where they are as a band at this point in time, and they do a good job of producing a coherent and competent 6-song EP.

Black Mesa are confidently vocal-driven, something also atypical of lots of independent/amateur bands. With song topics such as politics and the general stresses of life, vocalists Andrew Hansen and Adrian Arvizu both make their presence felt and, in general, really pull it off. The vocals start out strong but falter at times. The intense vocals really are well done, by the way.

Musically, they have some comfort zones that they sometimes get stuck in, but they play everything very convincingly. Drummer Derek Zanto and Rowan Firethorne (yes, that’s his real name, how cool is that name?) establish a solid foundation with hard-hitting drums and pulsing but steady basslines while Andrew and Adrian layer effectively with expressive chording and lead lines, respectively. The leads have that energetic ‘pull-offs with delay’ thing going, which I always like and are emblematic of this style.

A lot of what Black Mesa does could be considered conventional, and I don’t know that that’s necessarily bad. There are a lot of good influences and ideas in their songs. Whether they’re channeling Brand New, Thrice, or the Bled, they’re doing it confidently. Sometimes, though, they mix and match aspects of their favorite music instead of making it their own. But that’s probably the hardest thing any band can try to do. Perhaps it’s just the familiarity I have with the genre (those three bands were literally in my AIM profile whenever I last had one) that makes me notice ‘oh yeah that’s like ‘Cold Cash and Colder Hearts’ and that last song was like ‘Limousine’ instead of just recognizing it as a Black Mesa song. This EP does a great job of giving you an idea of what Black Mesa is as a band while simultaneously giving you something to look forward to in their work moving forward.