Montroze, in terms of local bands seeking their big break, have had a pretty flawless track record. With the hard hitting pop punk of their first EP, and the experimentation with alternative sounds fused with their roots on The Monsters Under My Bed, their new release Escape feels like a great stepping stone of progression for the band. It feels completely natural for the band to continue to experiment with what they had done with their last release, except this time it’s with much more emphasis. The band have claimed in the past that this new EP was “leaving Pop-Punk behind”- and while that isn’t necessarily true, Escape truly feels the most “Montroze” release they’re put together.
Opening on the (almost) title track Escaping, no bars are held as they swing into a punch to lure the listener in. The track feels massively personal with its huge soaring chorus and catchy verses, and it shows one of the first recorded instances of frontman Jason applying an enormous amount of grit in his vocal delivery, feeling almost like a diet Trophy Eyes vocalist John Floriani. This adds a huge deal of emotional impact to his lyrics, which throughout the track flow perfectly safe for one line which forces a wince at least (“I’m not gonna run anymore/ Not gonna look at the floor”). The following track and lead single Shameful You suits the track that came before it, applying a Moose Blood-esque slower & floatier approach to the opening section serving a wall of clean guitars. If any of the tracks on the release prove Montroze’s versatility with styles, it’s this one.
Escape takes something of a turn when following track Contemplation begins, as its presence as an acoustic track directly in the middle of the EP gives the pacing of the release a slight hit, but it does show the band to have the intention of being seen as a slightly more relaxing and easy going band as opposed to the riffy powerhouses that the success of Underperformer showed them to be at the time. The track itself is floaty and ditzy, and while it doesn’t lend itself to the fun energy the EP has and may feel more natural on a different project, it stands on its own as a great acoustic track.
As the release continues, Montroze show the people that they still have mastery of the reason they’d known the band, with the pop-punk blarer Pages of a Different Book which is most definitely the saving grace of Escape. Its energy is high, the lyrics are emotional and frontman Jason shows his vocal prowess beside a soaring chorus. This however, seems as though it was the initial final track on the EP, as closer Escaping Part II is simply an acoustic version of the opening track. This came as something of a surprise, as the prior track didn’t feel enough like a closer yet this song feels a little shoehorned in to scrape together a finale for Escape. The emotional punch the band must’ve wanted to strike doesn’t seem to hit due to having heard the song already, and while it’s good, it would much better suit a standalone release or an addition on a deluxe version of the EP.
Despite an ending that feels somewhat unfulfilling, Escape as a unit is strong, emotional and impactful release from Montroze. Big things are clearly on the horizon for the band, and there is no doubt that it is well deserved.