“Blurgtones” was the long-time running title for “No Authority,” a magnetic tour-de-force in melodic post-hardcore from Pennsylvania outfit Blurgundy. The band’s second EP, Wither, came about during long sessions listening to Deftones, O’Brother, and Seahaven. Bassist and vocalist Logan Ressler wrote the main riff during these sessions, writing the bulk of the song with drummer Michael Cross. While “Betrayer” and “You Should Stay Home” were written as a group, songs like “No Authority” and “Reverie” were written by two members – “Reverie” was mostly written by Ressler and guitarist Matthew Subers. Ressler is the band’s secret weapon, as his endlessly creative mind ticks through guitar riffs and melody progressions. He doesn’t stop there: Ressler has recorded, mixed, and mastered every Blurgundy song thus far.
Ressler, Suber, and Steven Katona (additional vocals, guitar) formed Blurgundy in 2018. The band’s eponymously titled debut EP was written, recorded, and produced by the group shortly thereafter. Before the release, Cross joined the band as their permanent drummer. In no time, Blurgundy began writing more and more music, this time as a four-piece. The writing and recording sessions for Wither commenced in late spring and concluded by December 2019, with mixing wrapped up by February 2020. This is a band discontent with stagnation.
Taking a massive leap forward from their debut EP, Wither showcases a band that has grown immeasurably in just one year. Ressler and Katona have further refined their vocals, while the guitars no longer feel muddy in the mix. With this collection of new songs, Subers finds his guitar radiant and crisp. While Blurgundy contained a doom-filled, sometimes funky atmosphere resembling Silverchair’s Frog Stomp, the atmosphere of Wither is equally menacing, albeit airier. Blurgundy set high expectations for themselves, proclaiming to create music of “brooding melodies intertwined with menacing riffs” and to “explore the boundaries of both the aggression of post-hardcore and the atmosphere of post-rock.”
In the gorgeous, much too short “Intro,” Subers recalls the neo-classical playing of early tracks “Suffocate” and “Close” before a wall of harmonies. Immediately following is “No Authority,” with an altogether jarring yet glorious transition into devastating riffs and breakdowns. Ressler wrestles with power dynamics between those with control and those without. “Rationality’s untaught, but I lost the narrative/Where’s your imperative now?” he sings, his eerie clean vocal wrapping around Cross’ newfound screaming abilities. A happy accident of sorts, Cross had zero intention of lending vocals to Wither. However, when adding extra touches during recording, he obliged, to excellent results. “Reverie” continues the ride as a synth-led extension to “No Authority,” reintroducing Blurgundy’s pensive take on post-rock.
The central riff to “Betrayer” was initially written on the keyboard by Ressler, and, look, I would love to hear that version of the song. Blurgundy transitioned “Betrayer” over to guitar, to great results. “How do you sleep at night? How do you face yourself in the mirror?” Ressler shrieks, with Cross and Katona lending harmonies behind him. It’s all leading up to (topically titled) “You Should Stay Home.” To my delight, the keyboard makes an appearance, making for a mournful intro. “You Should Stay Home” is the most ambitious Blurgundy song yet.
The break in the middle of “You Should Stay Home” recalls “Descensus” by Circa Survive – all guitars drop out before a beat lead by drum and bass. In 9 minutes and 14 seconds, the band travels through at least three different genres. There are lovely melodies guided by twin guitars, a dive into twinkling emo, and a supremely memorable break. Here, the band discovers lightning in a bottle. At last, they fulfill their ambitions: “You Should Stay Home” is undoubtedly epic. The track sure is brooding, and it does indeed stretch the boundaries of post-rock.
There’s no doubt that Blurgundy is made up of artistically diverse, talented musicians. By all means, Wither sees a band soaring in confidence and musical ability. However, they still have a way to go. Looking from a lyrical standpoint, there’s room for improvement. At best, the band’s stories are vague and slightly unsettling. At worst, they border on cliché – a band possessing such gifts sounding like a replica of any other young, angry group is something of a wasteful letdown.
Last year, Michael Cross and I had a wonderful conversation about all things music. What particularly sticks out to me, to this day is his earnestness. Once he discovered Saosin during an especially transformative time, his life changed forever. Finding his home and identity, plus, a unique outlet to freely express himself, he told me this: “These bands and their music have since given me a sense that there is something greater in the world… like some powerful energy that draws us near and embraces us and gives us comfort.” In time, perhaps Blurgundy will become that band.