Subtlety is not an prized element in Afterlife Parade‘s Death. Still, Quinn Erwin is a surprisingly versatile songwriter for a guy who gives us two title tracks and labels his introduction “Fate: An Introduction.”
After the 41-second intro (“Can’t run, can’t hide, the light is gonna come for you!”), “Death” arrives. The first title track is a complex, affair that unfolds in multiple parts, as the song builds from an ominous acoustic riff to a full-band roar in its four minutes. While it gives a good feature to his emotive tenor, it’s not the most memorable of his tunes.
“Nothing But Love Can Stay” is his best, however, because he eschews subtlety and build for an excellent hook against a stark piano line. It may be uncool to be earnest, but Erwin sounds his best when he’s matching Chris Mills blow for blow in evocative imagery and downtrodden melodies. It’s far more memorable than the opener. It builds to a huge crescendo as well, and I wish it didn’t.
“Arrows Fly” is another eerie track, but this one doesn’t crescendo as much, letting Erwin’s voice do the heavy lifting. The starker Afterlife Parade’s material is, the easier it is to connect with; I’m sure it’s fun to rock (and he’s not bad at it), but the rock pales to faceless when compared to the strength of his weary voice and sweeping melodies. Still, 7-minute mellow songs are tough to pull off, which is why “Simple” gets a bit tedious.
The left hook, however, is the other title track, “Afterlife Parade.” It’s a Springsteen-esque rocker that sounds quite fresh with Erwin’s vocals fronting it. Then the “whoa-oh” chorus hits, and you’d be forgiven for forgetting what the rest of the EP sounds like — just like when the mellow work outpaced the complex opener nigh on 15 minutes earlier. The horns, stomping and clapping only solidify it.
Afterlife Parade’s Death is an extremely intriguing introduction to a songwriter, but it leaves a lot of questions hanging out there. Where will he go from here? Will we get more of this variety? Will he stick to one path and cultivate it, perhaps making more beautiful “Nothing But Love Can Stay”-style tracks or rousing “Afterlife Parade”s? Who knows. There’s a lot of puzzle pieces in this release, but the picture can’t be put together yet.