Familiar reference points may abound when listening to this, the second album from up-and-coming Ohio band ONCEOVER. But these guys are masters of the unexpected curveball — just when you think they're gonna take the well-traveled path and indulge themselves in metalcore cliché, they bust into moments of surprising melody, almost treading into modern rock territory. It's still heavy and heartfelt, a little left-of-center of radio rock, all the better for its broad spectrum of influences and refusal to be pigeonholed.
The band's not-so-secret weapon is vocalist Dave Ayling — listen to a song like "Ghost Town", where his full range is utilized. In the hands of a lesser band, we'd be looking at an emo-fied mess, but ONCEOVER can pull off this sort of heart-on-the-sleeve performance and back it up with strong, heavy riffing and memorable songs. He can bust out some serious death growls, too, used just enough to keep things diverse — often juxtaposing the harsher vocal against a quiet, building passage in the music, to create unexpected tension.
ONCEOVER seem to take influence from several oddball sources (think maybe latter-era THOUGHT INDUSTRY or mid-'90s VOIVOD), but at the end of the day their music is quite accessible. It's kinda got that earnest DEFTONES thing going on, with a little bit of Swede-metal influence woven in, particularly in the textured guitars. The cool thing about it is, it's hooky and infectious, but without pandering or trying too hard to fit into a corporate playlist — if anything, the band has probably hurt their chances at mainstream success by doing things their own way, and allowing their sound to grow any which way.
"The Albatross" is well worth tracking down for those unafraid of melody and harmony, but still seeking a challenging listening experience and songs that'll stick with you long after the last note fades.