Turnstile's 'GLOW ON' Makes Hardcore Genre-Fluid

BY Paul DikaPublished Aug 26, 2021

Prior to the start of the pandemic, Turnstile were a band on the rise, playing to larger rooms as they toured in support of their 2018 album Time & Space. However, once lockdowns were put in place, the five-piece known for their highly energetic, chaotic and cathartic live shows remained fairly quiet until this past summer, with the release of a single, and then a surprise EP, TURNSTILE LOVE CONNECTION. The four-song release was received with high praise, even catching the attention of pop-punk legends Tom DeLonge and Hayley Williams. Shortly thereafter came the announcement of the hardcore veterans' new LP, GLOW ON. Turnstile's latest effort spans 15 tracks, and sees the band continue to embrace genre fluidity, while delivering the heavy riffs and breakdowns longtime fans have come to expect.

The EP proved to be an accurate indication of what to expect on the full length, as the four songs — of which all appear on GLOW ON — all vary in their sound. While Time & Space featured brief interludes that hinted at the band's influences outside of the hardcore sphere, the band has fully embraced them and incorporated them throughout GLOW ON. Track-to-track, and even within each song, there is a level of unpredictability.

The quintet insert left turns that will catch listeners off guard, but make each song that much more engaging. "DON'T PLAY" opens with a blistering double-time punk intro before settling into a heavy rhythmic groove, with a riff that sounds like it could have been plucked from their 2015 debut album, Nonstop Feeling. "HUMANOID / SHAKE IT UP" clocks in at just over a minute, and features one of the most jarring (yet satisfying) transitions on the entire album. The juxtaposition between the first and second half of the song really speaks to the creative licence Turnstile have afforded themselves, spending years as a band committed to growing, evolving and exploring new approaches to songwriting.

"UNDERWATER BOI" and "NEW HEART DESIGN" showcase the band expanding even further outside the hardcore genre, as both songs feature shiny guitars, bouncing bass lines and clean vocals, showcasing vocalist Brandon Yates' range moreso than on previous releases. The Blood Orange-featuring "ALIEN LOVE CALL" is a slow and quiet, tremolo-filled track that sees the band flex their shoegaze muscles, and proves that anything and everything is on the table. Piano intros, hand claps, celestial synths, falsetto vocals all come into play on the album, and work well. Each band member brings their musicianship and years of experience to the table, tailoring their skillset to each song individually, regardless of the style. The eclecticism gives the album a flow and distinction that otherwise wouldn't exist on most hardcore albums.

There is still plenty of what people have come to expect from Turnstile on the album. There are songs that feature heavy riffs, pulsating drums, juicy bass tones and searing guitar leads. "HOLIDAY", "BLACKOUT" and "T.L.C." are all knee-benders with big breakdowns, and demonstrate why the band have become a mainstay among hardcore fans. Lyrically, Yates reflects on the uncertainty of the past year-and-a-half, and how the pandemic has impacted the band's trajectory. On "BLACKOUT", Yates exclaims, "Blackout in the middle of the light" and "Let the spotlight shine on me again," sentiments that capture a desire to pick up where their momentous rise left off before they were stopped in their tracks so suddenly. "NO SURPRISE", which features bass player Franz Lyons on lead vocals, alludes to the transcendental nature of the band: "You really got to see it live to get it". A quiet social media presence and a lack of interest in performing livestream events only add to Turnstile's reputation as a band that need to be seen in-person to be truly experienced. Relying on their music to engage with their fans is something Turnstile have always been able to do, and the theme of reconnection can be found throughout the record.

For all of GLOW ON's strengths, its genre-hopping nature and unwieldly length lead to a couple of misses. "ENDLESS" feels like it would be more at home on the back half of a Rise Against album and "DANCE-OFF" never really finds its footing after the opening riff. On an album filled with memorable choruses and compelling twists, these songs prove to be the exception.
GLOW ON is an album that is intriguing, unpredictable, heavy, groovy, ambient and loud all at the same time, and serves as Turnstile's crucial next step forward. There is a lot to chew on here, and that's what makes GLOW ON an album that will stay fresh after many replays.

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