One Step Closer – ‘All You Embrace’

By Katherine Allvey

The “sophomore slump”, or whatever you choose to call the difficult followup to a strong debut album, is a real and present danger. When One Step Closer launched with ‘This Place You Know’ back in 2021, their short and dirty first album caught the attention of all the right people with it’s blend of melodic hardcore and anthemic punk noise. Frequently cited as ones to watch three years ago, ‘All You Embrace’ is the sound of that label turning from a prediction to a statement of fact. 

The first thing you’ll notice, if you’re comparing their first and second albums, is that ‘All You Embrace’ is far cleaner. Ryan Savitski’s vocals are no longer hidden under layers of aural grease, and the melodic side to their sound takes the spotlight. Some folk are bound to fling accusations of One Step Closer “selling out” just because you can now hear the words to the songs, but this change in production leaves us in a position to appreciate the full spectrum of what the boys from Pennsylvania are trying to do.

“Every single part of the band, I wanted it to be there. I wanted us to be 100% ourselves and be as authentic to our band as we could possibly be,” claims Savitski, and just by diving into early single ‘Leap Years’ it’s clear that One Step Closer are building a distinct musical identity. It contains all the good things that we relish in a melodic hardcore record – cold water sweetness on the chorus that dips in screaming on the verses, a bass strong enough to induce a heart murmur and riffs that cut like razor blades – but also the clarity of purpose and intent, a sense that they now know what they’re doing and where they want to go. ‘Orange Leaf’ shreds in a similar vein, with the desert solitude that Teenage Wrist exhale combined with the calculated ferocity of early AFI, but ‘Giant’s Despair’ proves there’s more to these guys than we first expected. It’s a very intelligent song, fading into nostalgia at the edges, that comes across the sort of thing Green Day could have written if they hadn’t become American Idiots. 

If there’s an adjective to sum up this album, it’s imploring. With each turn of the emotional wheel, One Step Closer reveal, perhaps unintentionally, a deep hunger and desire for our recognition. ‘Esruc’ (presumably a metaphor for being cursed to be backwards) burns with a blue flame of intensity, contorting between screams of pain and a soft command to “crush my eyes”. The mallet-like opening riffs of ‘Slow To Let Go’ fade into a plea for companionship in the face of hopelessness with a tolling funeral bell lurking ominously in the background, and ‘Topanga’ crunches pleasingly as it races through drum-heavy speedway hopelessness. It’s ‘So Far From Me’ (sadly not a Nick Cave cover) that cracks open the clouds and allows rays of tortured sunlight into their landscape via slow building baselines and grunge guitar thrashing. As a hazy, dreamlike finish to an album, it’s golden, with a gentle touch that barely conceals the ferocity within.

One week after ‘All You Embrace’, One Step Closer will be hitting these shores as part of the Slam Dunk lineup. It feels odd to be mentioning their freezing clarity in the same train of thought as excitement for the easy breezy stylings of Goldfinger, or even imagining the hardcore complexity of thought they purvey in the sunny fields of  Hatfield and Leeds. But that will be the weekend when, after two gorgeously brutal albums and relentless touring in the US, that the UK sits up and takes notice of One Step Closer and their refined take on the hardcore sound. 

KATE ALLVEY

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LIVE: Slam Dunk Festival @ Hatfield Park, UK