Brandon Saller Is Determined to Make It Come Hell or High Water
Back in 1998, a little alternative metalcore band by the name of Atreyu fluttered out of the orange groves of Orange County, California. They were fairly successful throughout their active years, being one of the heavier choices for a new wave of Hot Topic shoppers. This is in no way a slight towards Atreyu and their talent — while not extremely heavy, hard or brutal, they exhibited aspects of all these elements. One particular feature that stood out in the band was the dual vocal play between frontman Alex Varkatzas and vocalist/drummer Brandon Saller. Where Varkatzas barreled through gutterel growls, Saller’s raspy melodies were the extra ingredients that elevated each song. Presently, Saller has taken his harmonious cords and bred his own band baby out of his solo material, Hell or Highwater. Having just released their sophomore full-length, Vista, Hell or Highwater have the potential to reach Atreyu levels in the mainstream, hard rock radio market.
While Vista does contain metal elements, particularly the riff-play of guitarists Joey Bradford and Jon Hoover, it is by all means a heavy rock album above all else — much like their debut. Album opener “Colors” delivers the positive message of loving one’s own eclectic colors proudly in arena rock-esque style. To be fair, much of that arena rock air riddles the whole album, with bits of country, blues and even old-school Atreyu in the mix.
“Blister” has almost a “Lip Gloss and Black”-type guitar line to it, only slower. “Don’t Hate Me” is more akin to 2000s-era nu rock, vaguely resembling the sound of Breaking Benjamin or Three Days Grace. Hell or Highwater somewhat get the album back on track with the country blues of “Dame” and the mild R&B tinge of “Washed Away.” Then, Saller ends Vista with “Revolution,” which, based on the title, seems like it’d be a heavy-hitting track. Lyrically, it is, speaking on the revolution much needed in the world’s present state, but musically it is one of the softest tracks on the album.
Vista, and Hell or Highwater in general, may not be the most metal endeavor in which Saller has partook, but it does fill a particular hard rock niche that hasn’t really been addressed on a chart level since the early-2000s. It’s not the best, but most definitely not the worst, and it certainly does showcase the full capability of Saller’s voice.