At what point does tongue-in-cheek become cop-out? How much longer is “screamo” going to be something people can say without snickering? Etymologically speaking, the word comes from modifying an equally hilarious word, “emo,” to identify a very particular type of singing which sounds like some seventh grader’s idea of being cathartic or intense. Conceivably, this is what happens to emo kids’ voices when things just become so emotional that their whinny simply cannot express the deluge of emotions pouring out of their little emo hearts, and gives way to a less threatening version of the nu-metal Cookie Monster growl.
Basically, “screamo” happens when there’s a band with all of their equipment in check except that crucial ingredient of self-assurance necessary to actually have a singer. Poughkeepsie’s Genghis Tron is screamo’s last and best hope at producing a worthwhile band. Their musicianship is the epitome of guitar store showmanship; inventive, precise and aggressive. “Cloak of Love” presents itself as a just-crazy-enough-to work genre mash-up. However, like its name, its approach creates goodwill at first, but soon gives way to surgical disdain. Its seemingly arbitrary splicing of trip-hop and grind genres lacks the impossible degree of finesse necessary for successful execution, and consists of cutting and pasting brief grind-and-scream outbursts between drum machines and samples.
But none of this would matter if there was some modicum of sincerity or intent behind the spectacle. However, like so much “screamo,” there’s a truly horrifying motivational vacuum once you get past the fury. The grind-and-roar beginning of “Ride The Steambolt” begs the question that cripples all of these bands: “Why are you screaming?”