The California screamo crew To Be Gentle’s late 2019 album L’autre Côté de la Peur shines super brightly from the very first moments onward. The group sound head-turningly sincere — their music clearly showcases the musicians’ personal perspectives on these heavy sounds and the emotional release that they carry. Their post-hardcore melodies are straightforward and gripping, and so are the vocals and the lyrics that they deliver. They at times slowly but always surely memorably explore their vision of an especially (and even painfully) personalized soundscape of post-hardcore melody.
It’s a majestic dance, really. The lyrics that Jake Beeker delivers with an impassioned scream that’s mostly quite understandable (if you’re used to screamo) flow incredibly well with the music, which heaves with epic sweeps that often stay quite focused. On its own, the music further feels like it’s encapsulating it’s own impassioned screams, in a sense. There are no frills here, although those can be great too — rather, To Be Gentle focus on the precious core of guitar-built melody, and often, the band’s confident but sometimes anguished performances really let listeners feel the emotional journey implications of the sometimes dark melodies when they speed up and slow down much more in line with the emotional lyrics than any overused standard of speed (or the lack thereof).
The track “7/14/19” alone packs a striking vision from the band. They kick it off with straightforwardly intense riffing that’s punctuated with a real metallic groove that starts making the song gradually more uneasy. But by the time the halfway point arrives, the group have completely dialed back their performances, and they switch to more of their methodical melodic builds that feel like — and are — a journey to something special. As that melody gradually gets louder and more intense, the band feel like they’re really inviting you in for a journey.
This album is the farthest thing from just a wall of sound — thanks to the beautiful, carefully wielded dynamics, the band feel like they’ve enacted a stunningly personal experience. The music’s alive and pulsating with the real emotional communication of the band members — on “7/14/19,” the music gets a bit more peaceful right as Beeker proclaims forgiveness for someone who’d enacted painful wrong, and on the final track — the monumental, about ten-minute long “The Thought Of Losing You Terrifies Me” — Beeker sings about the emotional pain of the aftermath of an assault while the band as a whole deliver fittingly furious blast beat attacks.
The story goes well on from there. There’s a simultaneous chance to observe the band’s freeing catharsis and experience your own.