“Here & Now” Review

The Basics

Framework, an alternative metal band based out of Orange County, California, dropped their latest album called Here & Now on March 5, 2021. Though Here & Now is slightly too short to be considered a full-fledged album and just a little too long to technically be an EP, it still showcases the strengths of Framework. It feels cohesive, mostly due to its masterful production.

Framework was founded by vocalist, producer, and multi-instrumentalist Tyler Dawson as a solo project. It has since grown to officially include vocalist Taylor Hernandez on the screams, as well as the latest addition of Joshua Moore on guitar, who has since contributed to crafting the lead and ambient lines. On Here & Now, studio musician Elijah Stavely helped write and record the drum parts as well. However, Framework is more than just a band. It’s also the name of Dawson’s music production studio where Here & Now was produced. Outside of tracking the drums at an outsourced studio, Dawson did all of the recording, engineering, mixing, and mastering for the album as well. In this way, Framework sets themselves apart from their peers by being truly independent.

The Sound

The musical composition found in Here & Now rises above the normal standard for metalcore bands, mainly due to their masterful use of juxtaposition. The album switches back and forth between djent-heavy riffs and beautiful ambient melodies, often reminiscent of progressive instrumental groups such as Plini or Modern Day Babylon. Instrumental tracks “Raven” and “Haven” further this instrumental comparison and cement Framework’s musical writing prowess. Little piano lines contrast against chugging guitars, offering a fresh sound, like the smell of the air after it rains. For the gear-heads out there, the combination of contrasting elements followed Framework into the recording process where the guitars were tracked using both digital amp simulations as well as vintage tube amps to get the required sound.

Similar to most modern metalcore groups, the contrasting cleans and screams provide a nice balance throughout the album. Dawson’s warm, clean vocals soothe the eardrums while Hernandez’s full-bodied and powerful screams take up the onslaught. Hernandez’s vocals especially take shape in the track “Tainted Grey,” where his crushing lows are then accentuated with deep, underlying synths to create the feeling of being trapped in one’s own mind. “Tainted Grey” also holds the most obvious example for the epic bass tone used throughout the project. (I may be geeking out a little here, but give me a break. I’m a bass player too!) All too often, metal bass tones end up sounding too muddy, lacking any sort of definition or punch, yet Framework has managed to craft a definitive distorted bass tone that sounds deep and clear. Good on them! 

I was also impressed by many of their guitar runs and lead lines, especially in the tracks “Solitude” and “Evergreen.” Their runs remind me of some of Periphery’s guitar licks, even in how they layer clean guitar leads over crunchy rhythm sections. Sonically, “Evergreen” and “Rebuild” round out the album. “Evergreen” almost has a pop-punk feel to it with a catchy riff at the beginning and a chorus that’s easy to sing along to. “Rebuild” finishes the project on a positive note with an upbeat tempo, bouncing guitar leads, and a happy sounding acoustic guitar in the chorus.

One last thing that I appreciate about this album are the transitions between songs. Several times the ending of one song will blend into the beginning of the next track, which indicates to me that the project was intentionally plotted and well thought out. The mixing and mastering is well done and shows Dawson’s talent.

The Message

Through the music, Framework’s lyrical message shines clearly, meant to be a positive message of hope even in the darkest of circumstances. In their Spotify bio, they state that their “mission is to bring positivity and love to this broken world through heavy, melodic and heartfelt noises.” Each and every one of their songs rises up to this goal. “Tainted Grey” recognizes the feelings of depression and anxiety and urges its listeners to keep pressing on in hopes of a better day. “Wounds” deals with overcoming pain and disappointment and the struggle of learning to trust again. “Solitude” discusses the joy of rediscovering hope. “Evergreen” communicates the need to slow down sometimes and recognize the goodness of life. “Rebuild” expresses appreciation for life and how vital gratefulness is, even in the difficult times. Framework closes out the album with the line, “Right now it’s hard to feel / Break down, start to rebuild,” as a reminder to their listeners that everyone breaks down. But what’s important is that we all rebuild.

My Final Thoughts

Here & Now was my first introduction to Framework and, I must say, I was very impressed, especially since they’re a young, completely independent band. My favorite track on the album is probably “Solitude.” The verse has a nice groove to it, the chorus is a great blend of their clean vocals and screams, and I love the contrast of the clean lead line over the top of the guitar chugs. 

What has made me really appreciate Framework is their overall sound and their positive mission statement. Their melodies are well written, the drums sound crisp and punchy, the clean and distorted guitar parts perfectly complement each other, and the bass tone is to die for. I admire the amount of effort that went into this project and I believe it paid off. I also cherish the amount of hope that this band carries. Call me an optimist, but I like listening to music that makes me feel good about life and this heavy metalcore band does just that.

Framework definitely has the skills to pay the bills and I’m very much looking forward to hearing more from them and seeing how they develop.

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