Brandon Kyle Saller is one busy musician. In addition to being the drummer and clean vocalist for Orange County Metalcore band Atreyu, he serves as lead vocalist for his side group Hell or Highwater (formerly Black Cloud Collective) to which he introduced to the music world during Atreyu’s hiatus back in 2011.
While Saller’s main band is known for their unrelenting rhythms, crushing riffs and alternating dirty and clean vocal pairings, Hell or Highwater is a completely different beast, opting for a more straight-ahead, fun rock sound, and this trend continues with their latest offering, Vista.
Opening with a rallying cry and a driving up tempo beat, “Colors” kicks things off on a slightly uneven note, while there’s nothing inherently wrong with the song, it’s got a slightly flat, heard it all before feeling to it that doesn’t do Saller’s and the band’s skills justice.
The slower paced “Walk Out In The Rain” fares better, although those dreaded “Whoa-oh’s” still rear their ugly heads, there’s a great pop-tinged pre-chorus that is insanely catchy and is sure to get stuck in your head for a few days at the very least.
Things pick up considerably with the track “Another Good Time”, which features an interesting meld of Led Zeppelin-lite riffs, quiet, pop-styled verses and a funky pre-chorus that leads into a simple and catchy chorus. It’s here where the band showcases their ability for writing a catchy hook and implementing a broad range of styles without sacrificing the unity of the song as a whole. There’s also a great guitar solo thrown in that works beautifully and doesn’t overstay its welcome.
Another standout track is the country-tinged, mid-tempo rocker “Lighter Than Air”, Saller’s vocal delivery is suitably low and restrained in the verses accompanied by a simple beat from Kyle Rosa and a tasty distorted bass line from Nick Maldonado, which then leads into another catchy chorus that keeps the song clicking along nicely.
Things get slightly heavier with the rollicking “Don’t Stop. Get Up”. This short rocker features some great guitar counter melodies from guitarists Joey Bradford and Jon Hoover which helps to distract you from the return of the “Whoa-oh’s”. (Seriously, can bands stop doing that? It’s almost never a good idea to include these at the best of times)
Arguably the best track on the album is the lead single “I want It All”, curiously situated right near the end of the album. Featuring a sexy, blues-tinged lead riff and a slow dragging dance styled drum beat, it’s a track that just rocks out, and you’ll no doubt be shouting along to the chorus with a fist in the air. Even though there are some great tracks throughout the album, it’s a bit of a shame that there aren’t more songs like this one in particular.
Overall, Hell Or Highwater has talent in spades. They certainly know their way around a catchy rock hook, but there are a few missteps throughout Vista that unfortunately hold it back from being a truly great album, which is a shame as the band has the potential to make a serious dent. For now though, we’ll just have to settle for pretty good.