Departure are a relatively new band emerging from the shadow, if not the carcass, of emo rock. In fact, Thursday formed before most of Departure’s members had even been born. Though touched by the contaminating (or blessing depending on your perspective) hand of emo, the Utah-based quintet saturate their sound with plenty of other influences, from glossy pop punk to progressive metal. On their EP Gateways, they polish nearly every track with domineering synth arrangements that don’t so much recall the ‘80s as they do the late ‘90s when metal bands were trying to remind us how much they loved the ‘80s.
Lead-off track “For the Best” takes all of the upbeat bits of late-‘90s commercial pop punk but adds a beefiness with lots of heavily produced distortion; a metallic blanket to familiar snotty vocals with just an edge of youthful vulnerability. From there, the Gateways EP almost sounds like an updated soundtrack for a millennial Karate Kid with ‘80s thriller synth strings noodling drama into the likes of “Incompetence” and “Forget Everything.” While lyrics expound upon the usual follies of youth, it’s all presented with urgent, world-impacting importance with the high octane, ultra-neon drama of a video game.
That’s not to say Gateways is without its more pensive moments. The title track pulls things back a bit with a slow, hammering melodrama tangled in intricate coils of piano while “Lonely Eyes” is a fairly straightforward acoustic track. But Departure closes their EP with “Thoughts” which would be perfectly at home soundtracking the scrolling credits of an action movie. Gateways is a strong start from a group of musicians just starting their career yet not resting on their youth like so many of their peers. In blending diverse influences, they haven’t so much escaped the trappings of the enormous emo footstep within which they are treading but they have chosen some interesting ways to navigate it.