Post-hardcore is an undervalued genre in Cape Town. The alternative scene is intensely focused on creating music that is abrasively heavy. Post-hardcore, with its sweeping melodies and emotive inflections, is naturally ignored as it does not gel well with the horde of heavy metal bands that dominate Cape Town’s alternative front. It makes sense if you look at the global attitude of so-called metalheads to post-hardcore. It is regarded as being an inferior genre simply because people often mistakenly associate post-hardcore bands with the bands that metalheads hold to be scared. Many a YouTube video has a series of disgruntled metalheads complaining that people called Thrice metal. Such animosity on a global level should make post-hardcore a detested genre in South Africa, and particularly in Cape Town where the metal scene is gasping for breath under a steady tidal wave of indie bands formed in garages and let loose upon the live music circuit.
Surprisingly, it doesn’t have this animosity. Yes, the genre is undervalued and largely ignored but there have been instances where the gruff metalheads that frequent Gandalfs have welcomed these post-hardcore bands into their midst with a friendly slap on the back and quaff of beer. One of these bands is Past Haunts – a band that is dear to my heart ever since they released their second EP Other. The EP introduced a band that fully embraced all the abrasive and passive-aggressive aspects of post-hardcore – the kind of aspects that Touche Amore include in their cathartic blend of hardcore. The band currently stands on the brink of releasing their third EP Afterthoughts – an EP that pushes their sound to new sonic heights and new emotional depths.
The band hangs onto elements of the gritty, melodic sound contemplated on Other, but it is tempered by what one could call mature elements. The infectious pop rock melodies that undercut much of Other have been replaced by sweeping melodies that accentuate the cathartic nature of the EP. “Questions” is where these sweeping melodies are the most apparent. It is a powerful and tragic song as it was written after one of the band members’ lost a family member. It was written as a means of coming to terms with the death. The song adopts a Pianos Become Teeth aesthetic with its sweeping piano and violin introduction that breaks into a frantic burst of guitar and drum work. “Questions” is a jarring juxtaposition of a sweeping, melancholic melody and the snarling fury of abrasive post-hardcore. It is a perfect representation of how humans often feel torn between anger and melancholy when they lose a loved one. The vocals of Brett Allen-White serve well to accentuate the pain contained within the song as he bellows forth the following lyric: “It was out of my god-damned hands. I don’t to think about how much time we could have had, or how we last fought and how I wished it was over.”
“Ether” sees Past Haunts using an EP to their advantage to test the water with something a bit different as they venture over into the crossover territory that Ohgod inhabits. “Ether” is an interesting fusion of post-rock and post-metal, but without the pretentious connotations. Elaborate instrumentals and intricate melodies find themselves amalgamated into the edgy yet distant and distorted snarls of guitar and pounding of drums that accompanies post-metal. It serves as a perfect stage for Allen-White to hark back to a time where he wasn’t 30 and staying out all night was entirely appropriate. This post-rock number finds itself juxtaposed next to the fantastical Thrice-inspired musings of “Bonfire”. It is a massive post-hardcore number that concerns itself with the anxiety of falling in love and it can easily play havoc with one’s emotions.
Past Haunts may only be on their third EP, but they are already proving to be a band that can hold their own among much heavier and more aggressive bands. Afterthoughts shall be released on 30 April at Club Med. With songs like these, it promises to be a great evening.