Arkansas’ Census are a metal band that falls outside the scope of what you might typically expect from a metal band. They’ve honed an intriguing sound that fuses metal elements with delicious yet powerful vocals, modern metalcore instrumentals, synth fusions, and emotionally-driven lyrics.
The result is a sound that tows the line between rock and metal but, labels aside, is fascinating to listen to, led by the engaging vocals of frontman Ben with a mix of melodic and heavy instrumentals.
The Jessieville band, who’ve already opened for one of this writer’s favourite bands Beartooth, initially began with a phone call and a single show way back in 2012. As the band explain: “Our drummer, Josh, was playing a show with his band in 2012 that needed a replacement vocalist last second, and he asked Ben if he’d be interested. They ended up playing the show together and it was so fun that they decided to keep making music together. Coincidentally, that first show is also where we met our bassist, Jathan, who we instantly loved and asked to join Census years later.
“Our guitarist, Bo, went to the same school as Josh and Ben growing up. He was the first person we asked to play guitar for our band because he was always known at our school as the kid who could shred on guitar. Ever since the first time we all jammed together, we’ve just been writing and growing together as friends and musicians, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.”
They eventually began making music as Census, releasing debut single Placebo in 2018 followed by a steady stream of bangers. And proof of that is offered by latest single Sunbeam, which was released last month.
Sunbeam opens up with light guitars and vocals “They say she’s got her life all figured out, A path that’s clear, the perfect route, But she still cries at night, She tries to lock away the pain, Despite the storm, she’s in the rain, Dancing under the moonlight.” A barrage of driving low-tuned guitars jumps in under a big piercing guitar lick, which drops into the light guitars and builds into a more intense second verse.
That builds into a big singalong chorus “And how can I love if I hate myself, Nestled in your embrace but I can’t be held, Nothing’s the same, How could you overlook the trauma I’ve been dealt, Did you miscalculate the hell that I have felt, And nothing’s the same.”
A second chorus gives way to a cool little section of twinkling guitars under an intense section of anguished vocals “I hope you can’t sleep at night, I hope you hate yourself, The guilt eats you alive, You feel like you’re in hell, I hope it’s always there in the back of your brain, That you’re a piece of shit with just yourself to blame, I hope you wanna die but you’re stuck on the brink, In a quicksand of lies but you can never sink, I hope you say her name, I hope you see her face, I hope you rot away in the mess you made.” And that drops straight into a big guitar solo, which feeds into a final chorus that brings this awesome track to a close.
On the track they told us: “We are so excited for people to hear Sunbeam. Current fans can expect to hear that classic Census sound: jammy riffs with powerful vocals, but we also experimented with some new sounds on this one! Ben wrote this song about the negative effects that abuse and mental manipulation can cause within a relationship.”
Sunbeam is just one of a number of massive tunes the guys have released. A particularly intense favourite is the fantastic The More You Pour, which also opens up with light vocals “Crush my bones under your weight Make me feel again, I pray I let my blood sink in the floor because the more I fill, the more you pour” and explodes into a mass of heavy guitars and stabbing synth sounds.
Ben’s deliciously infectious vocals take over with awesome high-pitched cries that feed into a big catchy chorus. The little synth sounds return, before Ben’s huge vocals quickly return and feed into a second chorus, which is extended then drops into almost spoken vocals over stabbing guitar chords. That gives way to a heavy blast of low-tuned guitars and atmospheric piercing guitars and backing vocals to close the track out. Give it a listen here:
Last year’s Curse of the Black Pearl mixes things up by going straight into a fun twisting guitar lick that drops into Ben’s engaging vocals, which are joined by driving guitar chords. Heavy stabs of guitars support Ben’s vocals through a second verse that ends on the lyrics “Looking in the mirror, Think I might be getting slimmer, But I can’t bring myself to eat, Try to fall asleep ’cause if I just don’t think I might find some peace and quiet.” Check it out here:
While debut track Placebo is the one song that does delve into more of a pure metalcore sound, with big screamed vocals over atmospheric guitars then huge guttural screams and booming low-tuned guitars. Give it a listen here:
On the Census sound, they tell us: “Describing your own sound to someone else is always difficult. We like to think we’re somewhat of a pop/rock/metal hybrid. Bo was raised on 80’s music which tends to shine through in our writing. We definitely have that classic metalcore vibe as well, but vocally, we take more of a pop approach by trying to make the vocals something powerful and catchy that can stand out amongst the heavy music.”
Census draws influence from big metal bands like Dayseeker, Crown The Empire and Bring Me The Horizon. That’s in addition to another band we previously covered on the site in Stand Atlantic who, in Census’ words, “are almost pioneering a new genre of mashing unique pop elements to a more punk rock sound.”
And, on what inspires them to write music, they add: “We draw tons of influence from listening to other artists. We’re constantly finding new bands to fall in love with so we can broaden our perspectives as musicians and keep ideas fresh. As far as topics go, we just tend to write about things we’re passionate about. We draw a lot from personal experience in our writing because we want to be open and real with our listeners.”
We’re loving what we’ve heard from Census, and the good news is there’s plenty more to come from the band, including more new music and videos. As they tell us: “As far as shows go, we’re pretty much at the mercy of the rest of the world. We’ll definitely be spending this time to create as much new content as possible, and you can bet your ass we’ll be the first to start planning new shows and tours as soon as it’s safe again.”