We’re not living in particularly easy times. It feels like we’re in the darkest timeline of real life, a place that looks and feels like what we’re used to but that is populated by villainous figures looking to twist and contort what we know is good and right. That’s on top of what we must deal with personally every day.
Less Art, the new (well, sort of) union of musicians from bands including Kowloon Walled City (if you’re not familiar, stop reading this now and go listen to their entire discography … we’ll wait … it’s the Internet), Thrice, and Curl Up and Die, centers on the types of things that make life and navigating the news every night an impossibility. On top of that, personal demons, guilt, and anxiety are things that eat away at many of us, sometimes making it even more difficult to just deal. The members—vocalist Mike Minnick, guitarists Ed Breckenridge and Jon Howell, bassist Ian Miller, and drummer Riley Breckenridge—pour their volatility and passion into”Strangled Light,” a post-hardcore stew that’s steamy and chewy but also is packed with personal and social messages that might be preaching to the choir for many but also feel cathartic and powerful. This is a big change for these guys who already play together in baseball-themed hardcore band Puig Destroyer (minus Ed Breckenridge) but wanted a more serious route to express themselves. They sure found it, as this killer album can attest.
“Optimism as Survival” starts raw, with Minnick singing about a family tragedy and the process of cleaning out the house of relics and memories. As the band punches along with him, he recalls a grandfather’s suicide, dark family secrets, and all the darkness that should bury a person. “I’m too curious to kill myself,” he wails, refusing the give in to tumult. “Diana the Huntress” sinks its teeth as one of the most aggressive songs on the album. Meghan O’Neill-Pennie (Super Unison and formerly of Punch) shrieks with animalistic abandon over the chorus, as the music lays in punches, and Minnick howls, “This is a warning to those who think we’re weak!” “Mood 7 Mind Destroyer: Guilt” chews on bruised nerve endings that have been beaten for years. Guitars churn and then torpedo through the chaos, while Minnick spits, “It’s a guilty conscience, and I deserve this,” only to follow with the wounded, “My demons have gone hungry, while I starve myself.” “Wandering Ghost” reminds a bit of Thursday, mostly from approach. The talk-sung words are wailed and hang, ready for plucking, while the guitars drip and drums pelt the senses. The throes of addiction and emotional flaws flood to the surface, while the song sits in the mid-tempo simmering.
“Pessimism as Denial” sort of echoes the opener, at least in title, and the track cuts open and lets Minnick’s raspy howls take center stage. “Why don’t we ever help those we hurt?” he wonders aloud, as he touches on subjects including racism and hatred, blasting out, “This system doesn’t work, the world is better without us.” Much of humanity likely is too self-absorbed to consider that line. “Shapeshifter” pulls back the reins some, though it remains intense emotionally. Again, we travel into guilt’s merciless hands, as Minnick fears a death where he feels he didn’t do enough in his life and pleads, “Help me do better.” “Crushed Out” is a firebreather, a track that seems to share the shame many of us feel about the country in which we live, at least how it stands now. “This is a fucking nightmare!” Minnick wails, seeing a scene that no longer looks welcoming and inviting to him and those of his mind frame. “What Is in It Man?” follows a similar vein, but also confronts the contorted views of what God has come to mean or represent to people who have twisted what should be honorable teachings, as well as the violence that resulted from this. “Which school or church will be the next target?” Minnick wonders, as the band backs him with incendiary power. The closing title track has a burly opening and shriekier vocals. The bass spills and thickens the scene, with Minnick reminding, “No one comes back from the dead,” as the band hits an agitated, yet thunderous finish to a thought-provoking record.
Lots of people are asking a ton of questions about the country and world in which we live, and answers aren’t exactly forthcoming. Less Art put a lot of challenging material in front of us on “Strangled Light,” as they turn these nine songs into examinations of events both inside our head and in the world around us. The record is a powerful statement not only musically, which it very much is, but intellectually and morally as well.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/LESSARTBAND/
To buy the album, go here: https://gileadmedia.bandcamp.com/album/strangled-light
For more on the label, go here: http://gileadmedia.net/