Comeback Kid Relish the Challenge of Moving Forward on 'Heavy Steps'
Published Jan 20, 2022Comeback Kid continue to propel forward. The collective have navigated side projects, lineup changes and a pandemic to boot since their debut album Turn It Around came out almost twenty years ago. And while their sound has developed to showcase the versatility in the band's songwriting ability, the heavy hooks and urgency that initially drew fans to the band have always been there. Comeback Kid's latest album, Heavy Steps, amalgamates those initial strengths with a seasoned approach to songwriting that comes with being a band for nearly two decades.
Following 2017's Outsider, Heavy Steps is filled with gigantic breakdowns, crunchy palm-muted riffs, and gang vocals that will entice long-time fans of the band. Written and recorded in their former hometown of Winnipeg, the album was produced by John Paul Peters, who also produced Turn It Around. While certain aspects of the record feel like a return to form, there are far more elements at play than when the band last collaborated with Peters.
Heavy Steps blends those hardcore techniques with punk sensibilities on songs like "Face the Fire," "Everything Relates," and album closer "Menacing Weight." Vocalist Andrew Neufeld flexes his versatility as he flaunts his signature sharp growl in the verses, while delivering more melodic vocals in the chorus. In addition to the vocals, Jeremy Hiebert and Stu Ross incorporate more guitar leads, and shiny octave chords that provide texture to the songs.
Although the record fuses hardcore and punk (perhaps even a tinge of metalcore) at times, this is still a Comeback Kid album, meaning a good chunk of the eleven songs skew towards hardcore. The opening title track is the perfect example, on which Chase Brenneman's fat and juicy bass lead pairs well with drummer Loren Legare's pounding of the snare, leading to a guitar riff that sets the tone for the rest of the listen.
From there, Comeback Kid build on that foundation with songs like "Crossed" (featuring Joe Duplantier of Gojira), "Shadow of Doubt", and "Dead on the Fence", which features perhaps the most pummelling breakdown on the album. Each of these aforementioned tracks is thrust forward by an underlying energy, intense but measured, never reaching a frenetic point.
Lyrically, Heavy Steps focuses on the struggle to keep moving forward in spite of the distractions, challenges and hurdles that stand in the way, which sounds about right for an album written in the middle of a pandemic. "Shadow of Doubt" captures that feeling quite blatantly, as yells of "This doubt hovering over me, overshadowing power" echo throughout the song. This theme matches the trajectory and mindset of a band focused on persevering through times of uncertainty. On "Face the Fire," Neufeld exclaims, "A product of change, through a prodding for pain," and "We're still banging that drum, and we'll see what happens'' signalling that, through all the ups and downs, Comeback Kid will keep evolving and persisting.
Cohesive as the themes and lyrics are, a more subtle approach would improve the songs as a whole. Lines like "Been a while since the enemy shanked us" on "No Easy Way Out" and "These stabs only hurt me," on album closer "Menacing Weight" may fit the hardcore aesthetic, but teeter between heavy and corny, distracting from the instrumental strengths that exist within those tracks.
Outside those lyrical missteps, Heavy Steps succeeds in capturing the experience and skill cultivated by a band over almost twenty years. Instead of becoming a legacy band, Comeback Kid have made the decision to challenge themselves, and their fans by expanding their sound, and redefining who and what they can be. And if Heavy Steps is any indication, the band and their fans will be happy with that decision. (New Damage)