The Black Maria - Lead Us To Reason (Victory Records)

For The Black Maria, two years of hard slog, demos, writing, and finding that right person and label to help them on their way has finally paid off. Having wowed the people at Victory Records, and having acquired the services of manager Mike Green (Yellowcard, The Matches) 2005 sees the release of their debut album "Lead Us To Reason."

As label mates and having shared a stage with Atreyu, you'll be thinking, another punk hardcore band, and yes, they are punk, and are often hardcore, toned down often with a large hint of Alkaline Trio like emo-punk.

Like these bands, The Black Maria do not follow word for word, preferring to keep the genres as influences, and not as a step by step instruction manual.

Opener "The Memento" and later "Our Commitments A Sickness" speak volumes, both perfect examples of what The Black Maria do, on top they are punk-emo, but underneath show music beautifully layered. The band throw in haunting keyboards, eerie melodies, and impressive guitar effects, topped by the angry and melodic vocals of Chris Gray, the sharp close of "The Memento" I hate you I hate you I hate you says it all.

"Betrayal" is an example of The Black Maria's emotional expression, lyrically they express feelings of disillusionment, passionate emotion, memories, romance and anger, the title says it all, and the whole album delves into bitter and angry stories of wearing your heart on your sleeve. It's not all ear splitting anger though, the band show they can be just as emotional, with the slow and melodic, but very sharp and harsh "The Lines We Cross" with anthemic choruses and depth emotion, and if that isn't your bag, listen for the impressive guitar rhythms.

Whatever way they do it, the band know how to express themselves and write a meaningful tune, whether angry hardcore or toned down emo is your bag, then you'll be happy, and as music depends on your mood, The Black Maria have thought of that as well.

Katherine Tomlinson

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