With an emotive, smash-fist elegance and penchant for musically nuanced arrangement comes the latest three-song demo from Northeast Pennsylvania’s own Last of Nine. Recorded at Dorrance’s Side B Studios, these standouts are compulsory listening, a mystifying gothic vibe anchored by a concrete foundation of pudgy guitars and ease-of-use melody.
The band, originally formed with the intentions of becoming an “all-original symphonic nu-metal” outfit, has not completely strayed from that ideal, but it seems to have grown into more than that tag can encompass. Comprised of drummer Justin Young, guitarists John “Lazz” and Jeff Mushell, bassist Zak Wilson, vocalist Mikki St.Pierre, and Melissa Burnham on keys, the band has undergone a few lineup changes in the recent past but maintains its ambient structural integrity by borrowing, not replicating, the formulas of orchestral rock acts like Evanescence, Epica, or even the dark beauty of the Tarja Turunen-fronted lineup of Nightwish.
“Affliction” begins with a classically inspired piano intro, confirming the decidedly melancholy foundation of which the band’s tastes are rooted. The song immediately segues into one of the best machine gun guitar/drum rhythmic rolls patented by bands like Sevendust over the years, over which St.Pierre laces her tastefully lower-register throe of dashed hope. It is, in fact, St.Pierre’s vocals which help to remove the band from over-simplified comparisons to other like-minded bands, in that she doesn’t feel the need for an unnecessary lung bleed by kissing the rafters with her breath.
“Remnants of Misery” is a track with a ravenous spark; early in the song, St.Pierre chastises a would-be provocateur: “You know damn well things will never be the same.” The song’s haunting heaviness is the calling card of this band’s brand of intensity, just metallic enough for the metal fans yet accessible enough that varied radio formats should have no trouble embracing it, that discernible trace of unrequited resolution keeping the edge sharpened on this truly stimulating fare.
The EP ends with “Dependence,” featuring an Aaron Fink-sounding octaved guitar intro reminiscent of classic Breaking Benjamin, complete with moody staccato defiance. The song perhaps features the most memorable, infectious chorus of the three on this EP, with St.Pierre hitting a briefly sustained falsetto over a ringing wall of distortion and minimalist, chambered piano that enhances the lyrical questioning of a fight for autonomy – pure emotion wrought with very palatable musicality that should be enough to draw an ear from fans of multiple genres.
Music that insists upon more than a passing listen, with a sobering current of lifeblood rippling through it, Last of Nine’s music is tempered with a jagged grace that’s more than enough to cut through any clutter in the NEPA original scene.
Last of Nine ‘Demo’ Rating: W W W W W