Surveillance – Vanishing Life


Ah, rock supergroups. Apart from Traveling Wilburys, it’s a struggle to think of one that has equalled the promise of its parts. Even though Vanishing Life ‘s Power Rangers in no way combine to form any kind of punk rock Megazord, if you forget the names involved, what you have left is a solid album of post-post-hardcore grounded on strong foundations with the odd little flourish that makes it stand out just that little bit more than the average.

So who are the famous names attached to the project? Well, take one part Walter Shreifels (Gorilla Biscuits/Quicksand/Rival Schools) and add Jamie Miller and Autry Fulbright (And You Will Know Us by The Trail of Dead) and leave Zach Blair to Rise Against. And, admittedly, they’re not household names but those of a certain vintage will remember Trail of Dead crushing us with ‘Madonna’ in the late 1990s – a blend of psychey, emotional garage that alt rocked us to the core. Shreifels, really, should need no introduction but having been a mainstay with youth crew hardcore punk legends Gorilla Biscuits, he headed off in a more sophisticated but no less influential direction in the early 90s with post-hardcore template creators Quicksand and later bothering Kerrang! readers with the more popular but equally cerebral Rival Schools.

Despite his near omniscience through the last thirty years of hardcore punk evolution, Shreifels has never really been a big chorus kinda guy. There was the shout-a-long pith of ‘Omission’ by Quicksand and ‘Used for Glue’ by Rival Schools and, errr…yeah. What he does really well though is drag you into a groove where you’re nodding along with the guitars rather than worrying about when you’re going to fist pump to the vocal hook. That said, opening track ‘The Realist’ is a stunner and after the scuzzy bass intro, the surprise here is the unlikely cock-rock swagger of Walter screaming, “Oh yeah!” and “Oh, my lord!” and it honestly doesn’t feel at all weird. He even slips in a few cheeky motherf**kers later on and it still works. Perhaps the freedom of just doing the vocals rather than being shackled to a guitar has loosened him up a little?

Oddly though, the record tends to bog itself down a little further along. There’s a certain focused anger that is full-on metaphorical pedal to the metal and while instrumentally the music drives along at a relentless pace – refusing to pull over and stop for a rest, but more frustratingly ignoring all the signposts that would get them home a whole lot faster. ‘Painter’ is a case in point; there’s space and time in those chord progressions to fit in some really memorable hooks but the most obvious route is missed. This isn’t necessarily a problem as sometimes A to B is a better ride if you go via C and D first but it feels like an opportunity has gone begging.

‘Thinking Weightless’ is a muscular cut and thrust and the point where you think that it’s all coming together. Pointy, stabby guitars give way to a looser, bluesier feel that is then punctured by guitar line crescendos and thunderous drums and ‘People Running’ is cut from the same cloth, pimping up a three chord wonder into a tune that Foo Fighters would love to have the balls to thrash through.

‘Surveillance’ isn’t an immediate record by any means but repeated listens will definitely reward with hidden depth – check out closer ‘Big Other’ as it transforms itself from galloping rock into jumping anthem by way of Tomorrow Never Knows. Sometimes searching is its own reward.

Nick Wesson

Nick Wesson

Photojournalist and reluctant opinion giver.
Owner of the actual clock that Bill Haley used to rock around.
Always having to give Electric Wizard 50p for the meter.
Gave Heartbreak Hotel a five star review on Trip Advisor.
Nick Wesson

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