I’ve been in therapy for several years now, sparked over a bad panic attack that sent me to the emergency room. But as time has gone on, and my sessions have evolved, a lot of what ends up being discussed is my Catholic upbringing and the irreparable damage it has done to me psychologically. And I’m lucky it’s only impacted me in that way and not physically.
I’ve also learned over the years that I’m not alone, and reminders of that always end up hitting me in ways I don’t expect. Such as when I took on “1692,” the debut offering from Frayle, the Cleveland-based doom band that claims vocalist Gwyn Strang and guitarist Sean Bilovecky as its creative core (they’re also joined by guitarist Elliot Rosen, bassist Eric Mzik, and drummer Pat Ginley). The title itself refers to the year the Salem Witch Trials began, and witchcraft very much is a part of the theme, as well as the impressive packaging that accompanies the music. But Strang concentrates a lot on what she experienced growing up Catholic and the frustrations involved with that. The band does point out the record isn’t darkness from front to back, and Strang also weaves in positivity and beauty, but this music definitely is a way she seeks to exorcise some lifelong pain that is carried into this great record.
“Introduction (Arise)” starts off with sounds swelling through static crunch as Strang, recalling witches who met violent, unjustified demise, calling out, “Arise the broken, arise sisters, arise brothers, watch them fall” as things bleed into the title track that kicks off with a power surge. Strang’s otherworldly voice is met with a burly chorus that adds an element of ugliness to the fray as she calls, “This fire, it consumes the cynic I’ve become, false prophets proudly try to sing a worthy outcome.” The music gets into your blood, chewing away and taunting before the track haunts and burns out. “Gods of No Faith” has guitars delaying before punches land hard before Strang’s voice mixes with sharp growls through the chorus. Strang revolves around the verses again, though she does meet up with brutality again before her whispers carry through. “Monsters” is a strange interlude with a nursery rhyme-style delivery, and then it’s onto “Darker Than Black” that plays tricks with you as it starts. Strang’s voice is the story here again, as she works in and out of chaos, and then the chorus brings a surge as she sings, “I need something darker than black to rip through this hideous slack,” as the song swelters at the end.
“Dead Inside” brings sludgy hell out of the gates as Strang’s breathy speak-sing pushes, and the chorus smooths over the wounds. The song is slow-moving and even mystical at times, but then the heaviness returns and buries everything in muck. “Burn” churns with spooky tones and moves its way toward your psyche. The chorus is a killer, making your emotions drive as Strang calls, “We all burn blistered and weak, we all burn ignited and bleak.” Now that you’re fully infected, follow the rest of the track to its abrasive finish that brings your blood to the surface. “Godless” adds dark skies back to the atmosphere, turning both moody and haunting, as the guitars set fires. “Sometimes I feel so insecure,” Strang admits over the chorus as the track keeps pouring its guts on the floor. “If You Stay” starts off with fires being stoked and mind-altering tones, as the vocals serve to freeze your flesh. The hushed vocals send chills, giving off a calming nightmarish vibe that rests within you. “Stab” is the closer, bringing heavy sullenness and music that strikes your chest. The tempo moves along with calculated precision as Strang calls out, “I scream silently, graciousness dies in me,” as the track rests finally along with her final words.
Religion hasn’t been kind to a lot of people over the ages, especially women, and we’re in an era where people no longer are afraid to speak out, no longer hesitant to face their accusers. Frayle tackles a lot of this ground on “1692,” a record that could jab at some sore spots for those who suffered similarly, but it also acts as a means of defiance. Through hell and beauty, Frayle confront it all on these 10 tracks on an album that’s really hard to classify but incredibly easy to see as a sort of ally.
For more on the band, go here: http://frayleband.com/
To buy the album (U.S.), go here: https://frayle.bandcamp.com/album/1692
Or here (Europe): https://laybarerecordings.com/releases
For more on the label, go here: http://aqualamb.org/
And here: https://laybarerecordings.com/