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Harsh Truth: Employed to Serve Voice the Millennial Condition on 'Eternal Forward Motion'

Thursday, 02 May 2019 Written by Matt Mills

“In 2017, 5,821 suicides were registered in the UK. This makes it the second-leading cause of death among 15-to-29-year-olds.”

If you’re one of the 10,000-plus metalheads to have watched the video for Employed to Serve’s recent single, Harsh Truth, on YouTube, this is the caption you found waiting beneath it. It’s a bleak and eye-opening statistic; one that defines the lyrical content of the track’s new parent album, ‘Eternal Forward Motion’.

“A lot of young people are affected by suicide and depression and I think it’s a very important topic,” Employed to Serve’s lead singer, Justine Jones, elaborates. As a 27-year-old living on the outskirts of London, Jones has been planted firmly in the middle of the millennial generation—a catch all for those born between the early ‘80s and the turn of the 21st century.

“We’re the first generation that’s not better off than our parents,” she continues. “The generation before us could afford things like houses and families. Now, times have changed: climate change is a very imminent threat; people are struggling to afford housing and socialising. I have friends who aren’t in bands and work full-time specialist jobs, but still struggle to pay their mortgages. They’re expecting kids and are terrified of being able to afford it.”

It is this state of perennial stress that Employed to Serve meticulously analyse on ‘Eternal Forward Motion’. The album, their first for Spinefarm after a couple of releases on the bulletproof London label Holy Roar, is comprised of 11 brutal metalcore anthems that hack at the realities of being a millenial in 2019. It’s home to social media-induced anxieties, zero-hour contracts and rising financial insecurity, and outside its window the world melts at the hands of big business and widespread environmental ignorance.

As Employed to Serve’s primary lyricist, the spark that would eventually ignite the album’s existential angst comes from Jones. Today, she describes the lengthy, arduous battles she had with her own internal monologue as a young adult. She berated herself and asked, in her own words, “Am I wasting my time? Can I be doing something better with my life?” These emotions were worsened by a creeping sense of isolation, which she reflects upon as understandable, but ultimately unfounded.

She remembers: “I had times of complete self-doubt. I had those thoughts, but the point of this record is acknowledging that everybody can feel that way. I feel like a lot of young people have that constant self-doubt. It gradually starts fading as you get a bit older. You end up getting set in your ways, like, ‘I am who I am.’ It’s about growing into that comfortable person.”

Jones’s years-long journey to self-acceptance is one that mirrors Employed to Serve’s own chronology. The band started when the singer was only 19, as a power duo fleshed out by guitarist and backing vocalist Sammy Urwin. “When we started, we weren’t confident,” Jones says. “We didn’t know what we wanted to sound like.”

The only thing Employed to Serve knew was what they liked. And what they liked was old-school ‘90s metalcore—anarchic pioneers like Norma Jean and Converge. So, they got to work at emulating their heroes. As their line-up expanded and their experience performing on stage increased, they were able to add more individual flair to that initial metalcore skeleton.

Urwin introduced clean singing to the mix, juxtaposing his interjections with Jones’s raw screams. The rhythm section began relying on heavier, metallic grooves, providing the perfect pace to get heads ferociously banging wherever they played. Combine these ingredients and you have a methodology that continues to this day, driving the songs found on ‘Eternal Forward Motion’.

Jones passionately wails over a simple drumbeat during Harsh Truth, while Urwin’s dry rasp is the lifeblood of Force Fed’s resonant chorus. “‘Eternal Forward Motion’ is definitely an evolution,” Justine explains. “But it’s heavier than before. I feel like it’s a much more well-oiled machine and that we have much better songs here.”

In the years between Employed to Serve first refining their style and ‘Eternal Forward Motion’, the band have proved themselves one of the most prolific in the British underground. This album is their third since their debut in 2015, during which time they have also played shows with such stars as Code Orange, Black Peaks and Rolo Tomassi.

Their contemporary twist on ‘90s brutalism has made them a preeminent name in the new wave of British metalcore, which now includes such similarly-minded newcomers as Ithaca, Loathe and Mastiff. This summer, they’ll join Gojira, Venom Prison and others in tearing through the Glastonbury bill. This has all come despite the lack of a support system in place for Jones and her band in their earliest days—again reinforcing that oft-daunting mindset of “me vs. the world”, which is something that many millennials can relate to.

“I’m not gonna lie, it was a bit of a slog at first,” she reminisces with a chuckle. “Right now, the underground [metalcore] scene is so strong. It’s remarkable how many bands there are. But it took us a while to get noticed. We had to book our own shows, because nobody would take a chance on us, and book our own tours. It was such a slow burn.”

The title of ‘Eternal Forward Motion’ is an allusion to that difficult progression. It characterises both a musical culture and wider world where, no matter what roadblocks a person encounters, their life and others’ must continue onwards. It’s an idea that, for Employed to Serve, hit its apex in the album’s earliest stages.

Still hot off of his band’s prior album, 2017’s ‘The Warmth of a Dying Sun’, Urwin suffered a serious back injury that forced him to quit his full-time job. Undeterred, he was somehow able to put his recovery time to good use, writing the music for what would become ‘Eternal Forward Motion’.

“Sammy putting his back out and leaving his job, it actually made the album come along much quicker,” Jones says, before surprisingly adding: “This album might have even felt much easier than the other albums. We felt everything flowed a lot easier and we knew how each other work.”

Happily, with Employed to Serve’s masterpiece impending, the entire band is once again running at full efficiency, ready to continue their hard-working ways. As soon as ‘Eternal Forward Motion’ is unleashed, its creators will embark on a brief UK jaunt, starting in London with support from Loathe.

Jones, meanwhile, feels less bound to the millennial stresses that inspired her new album. She summarises by calling the band her own personal diary; a necessary and creative way to communicate the internal strife that has simultaneously afflicted countless others in her generation.

“I was a different person when we started,” she says. “It’s interesting; I feel like the band have grown up together. And I’m happy that, among young people, talking about emotions and mental health has become more widely accepted since then. I think when we get to the point where people are happy enough to talk about when they’re not feeling so great, this will be a much better place for everyone.”

‘Eternal Forward Motion’ is out on May 10 through Spinefarm.

If you’re struggling with your mental health, please call the Samaritans on 116 123 or visit their website.

Employed To Serve Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Fri May 10 2019 - LONDON Garage
Sat May 11 2019 - GLASGOW Classic Grand

Click here to compare & buy Employed To Serve Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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