Among the many tyrants that exist in the swancore scene, Royal Coda is perhaps one of the best that has come to fruition. Their self-titled album, Royal Coda, was released on April 27th, 2018. After months of teasing out content, I was so pleased to hear Kurt Travis’ vocals on a new project after he departed from A Lot Like Birds after No Place.
What sets this record apart can be described by the interconnected scene of talented musicians that push into new musical territory with every composition.
First, you have Joseph Arrington, who despite the various projects he drums in (Sianvar, We Came as Romans, The Amity Affliction, Alone., Chiodos, La Taiga) is able to create memorable drumming that has equal force but less chaos than his previous projects. It is a perfect entry point for the average listener who is not used to his technical drumming that can be seen in Sianvar’s Stay Lost or the most recent Royal Coda album Compassion. Arrington holds the fort together at the end of the day, while adding little inflections that keep things interesting.
Then you have Sergio Medina, perhaps the most criminally underrated guitarist of so many projects, whether it be Stolas, Royal Coda, Sianvar, and now apparently Eidola. He even wrote guitar riffs for three Dance Gavin Dance songs ("Prisoner," "Born to Fail," "Nothing Shameful") on the album Afterburner. Will Swan often gets a lot of credit in the scene and is more well known, but Sergio has been pushing many different projects lately, including his newfound one with Donovan Melero of Hail the Sun, titled Nova Charisma. On Royal Coda, Sergio wrote both bass and guitar parts, and it is a treat to hear what he is able to create with the band. He is also credited with guitar programming to make all of the wonderful noodling sound cohesive.
And finally, Kurt Travis, a figure who has improved his vocals and musicianship over the years and gained incredible prominence lately. After departing from A Lot Like Birds and finding a new project, Royal Coda has become Kurt’s defining project. His vocals are a mesh between that of Tilian Pearson and Johnny Craig, the happy medium that I love to listen to daily. On this album, he shines through and experiments with dissonance, tension, but also lush harmonies. While not as chaotic as in A Lot Like Birds, his vocals on this record set the stage for future projects like Compassion, his feature on "Shelf Life" with Dance Gavin Dance, and his incredible solo album, There is a Place I Want to Take You.
Royal Coda’s self-titled album was a solid entry into an increasing collection of swancore albums, that at the time of release, I felt was rather empty and needed more substance. But looking back at it, two years later, I can say without question that it was the perfect setup for the explosive album, Compassion, and I am able to love each project on its own.