Having lost ex-Ethel Meserve guitarist Gerb, Benton Falls has continued on as a three-piece, seemingly no worse for the loss. They also seemed to have taken a cue from Cross My Heart's Temporary Contemporary, with vocalist/guitarist Michael Richardson taking his memorable vocals and layering them on many tracks with a sharp screaming backup vocal that accentuates the harshness and raw feelings behind many of the lyrics. Musically it works, with a guitar-fronted, emo sound reminiscent of Cursive or perhaps a slower Planes Mistaken for Stars and some math rock-influenced time changes and occasional screamo vocals to boot. The lyrics are exceptionally honest and poignant, revealing a stark depression that exists in Richardson's mind. The seriousness of the album comes through on the first track, "This Housecall Could Kill," with its lines of prescribing medication to get the subject through tough times. From there, it branches out to the subject of materialism and how money can never truly buy love, or life, for that matter. Many of the songs after that deal with failed relationships, bitter breakups, and the like. The final number is an instrumental tune with producer Matt Bayles (Pearl Jam, Botch, Murder City Devils) lending a hand on keys. Bayles' production work can't be understated, as he seemingly provides a fine polish to everything with which he works while not taking away from the band's texture and style.
Guilt Beats Hate ranks up there with the aforementioned Temporary Contemporary as the most brutally honest and painful album that Deep Elm has released, not for any aesthetic reasons, but because the lyrics seemingly describe someone truly in the thick of life's battles. While on a different level than their debut (not better or worse, just a different kind of album), the ten songs on this disc certainly are worth a listen by any fan of emo music. Despondent? Yes. Melancholic? Yes. Best record ever on Deep Elm? Pretty close.