On a hot early summer day in 2015, in a tiny house basement lacking air-conditioning and packed wall-to-wall with people, Aviator put on one of the best shows I have ever seen—diving forward headlong through an emotionally charged set until they physically couldn’t play any longer. All five of them covered head-to-toe in sweat, they asked if anyone had song requests before they finished; my friend who introduced me to the band requested an older song. They played it perfectly.

Two years later, Aviator has delivered this same gigantic emotional impact to me yet again. This time, it is with Loneliness Leaves The Light On For Me, the Bostonian 5-piece emotional hardcore band’s second full-length album on No Sleep Records, following 2014’s criminally under-recognized debut, Head in the Clouds, Hands in the Dirt. But their output is considerably more substantial than two albums, with a steady stream of consistently excellent smaller releases, including numerous singles, a spoken word collaboration, splits, and EPs (including the excellent two-song ‘Heaven's Gate’ b​/​w ‘Death's Door’ a mere two months ago).

The heading of Aviator’s website has previously read “Too sad for the hardcore gig, too mad for the emo gig,” which quietly tells the larger story of the band, not only in their musical style, but also thematically in their lyrics. Loneliness Leaves The Light On For Me is an album that draws from both these sources with equal measure, combining them in ways that are at once seamless, unexpected, and beautiful. What ultimately makes this album so consistently as interesting as it is dynamic is not just in how Aviator blends these opposing forces within their music, though.

While this is absolutely an important piece of the equation, the real secret to everything comes from their clear comfort with letting individual moments live and breathe on their own without rushing into whatever comes next. Nothing feels extraneous, or added simply to check all the boxes of the band’s sources of disparate inspiration. This allows the songs on Loneliness Leaves The Light On For Me ebb and flow in wholly natural yet still unexpected ways; nothing feels forced or out of place, nor is it remotely predictable.

This album is full of numerous “holy shit” moments, where Aviator creates a moment within a song that is as utterly unexpected as it is instantly memorable. They are those moments that make you listen to a song a second time in a row, just to make sure you heard what you thought you had—that your ears are not deceiving you.

The first of these moments comes on the backside of third track, ‘Ad Nauseam’, when the music softens, making way for repeating vocal lines, delicately sung at first, before building back to a massive crescendo of call and response guitar parts from from Mat Morin and Michael Russo, swinging drums from Aviv Marotz reinforced rhythmically by bassist Mike Moschetto, and interweaving multi-part vocals led by vocalist TJ Copello’s building intensity on two repeated lines.

“Once more from the top.
This time with feeling.”

This section at the close of ‘Ad Nauseam’ brings to the forefront the central-most theme throughout the 35-minute runtime of Loneliness Leaves The Light On For Me. This is of the relationship between performer and audience—both in the literal sense of music and other art, and of performative roles within life and relationships.

Copello goes so far as to draw comparisons between the collapse of a relationship with the collapse of a bee hive on ‘Nasonov Pheromone’, a song named for the pheromone released by worker bees to draw foragers back to the hive, or by humans in order to attract a swarm toward a new hive.

“I watched the colony collapse,
Anxiously I admit.
Disorder is all we know,
And my fear of abandonment.”

It raises questions of what forces drive us to the roles we fulfill in our lives—whether any of us are able to truly move along from those roles on our own, or if our world must collapse around us before moving along. Does the comfort found in our adhering to the performance of a set role prevent change or growth?

The album closes on perfect note of summation that surprisingly does not come from any member of Aviator, instead a much less expected source. As the final song, ‘Does It Make A Sound’, fades out into feedback, a new voice takes place of Aviator’s—legendary professional wrestler Mick Foley (as his early character, Cactus Jack), from a portion of a promo he delivered while in Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) in 1995:

"...the problem with being hardcore is, by the very nature of the name, we give of ourselves, of our bodies, of our hearts, and of our souls; and for each one of us who give, there's bloodthirsty, lowlife fans out there—only willing to take!”

As an avid fan of professional wrestling, it is a rare and personal treasure for the opportunity to arise where this passion intersects with music. In this case, though, the ties between the two are not simply a fun Easter egg for a very specific cross-section of these fandoms like myself, but actually show important thematic elements of the album. Foley, in character as Cactus Jack, was originally lamenting the personal toll that came along with ECW’s blood and violence-laden “extreme,” or “hardcore” style of professional wrestling. Within the context of Aviator and Loneliness Leaves The Light On For Me, it closes out the album asking whether the emotional price paid in the name of art, or relationships, is worth it in the end. This question is one that has drawn me back to this album repeatedly since my first listen through it.

With Loneliness Leaves The Light On For Me, Aviator has created a beautiful portrait of existentially, emotionally, and intellectually challenging music that is still at once instantly accessible in its adherence to the hardcore genre’s staples of heaviness and intensity, and complex through emo’s emotional depth and intricate musical composition. These parts add up to an album that I both cannot recommend enough, and I foresee remaining in my regular listening rotation for years to come.