It’s easy to complain about 2020, because unless you’re in the super rich category and have profited off COVID-19, there’s very little for most of us to celebrate. Yet, some people have it worse or have worries that supersede ours, especially if those are more of the inconvenience variety, and we should try to remember to save some of our positive energy for them.
Gared O’Donnell, the ferocious gravel-voiced vocalist/guitarist for Planes Mistaken for Stars, is one of those people who have been dealt a worse hand than most as he was diagnosed with stage 3 esophageal cancer, which initially was deemed inoperable. But O’Donnell has been battling through chemo and radiation, leaving a trail of utter positivity behind on his social media, and there looks to be some hope for him. On top of that, he and fellow Planes member Neil Keener created a slew of new songs while quarantined together in Peoria, Ill., though some of them weren’t quite the normal Planes vibe. No issue. The two created Blunt Razors to release this new music, which is decidedly quieter and less harsh than their main project, though it still sticks the dagger in pretty deeply. O’Donnell sounds great singing in more hushed tones, while the music is dark, sobering, and perfect for these days that contains less and less daylight.
“Begging Calming” gets things started as a moody buzz hangs over, and O’Donnell’s vocals rumble more gently than we’re used to hearing. “You were hungry, I was starving, we two storms begging calming,” he sings as echoey murk becomes a factor and ends the track in solemnity. “Speeding” aches with hurt, evident in O’Donnell’s voice as he tries to reason, “Could you please pick up the phone,” teeming with heartbreak. The song is sorrowful and plodding as O’Donnell later calls, “I really want to hear your voice again,” over and over as his pain refuses to relent. “Unspoken” has a deep Midwestern vibe, especially in the warm guitar work, as O’Donnell notes, “You can taste it in the air, you can feel it in your knees, some words are best left unspoken.” Melodic guitars lurk around the edge of nighttime, finally bleeding into the dark. “Around You” eases in as voices are more delicate, and emotional darkness sparks unmistakable energies. The feeling is gazey and drenched in echo, and O’Donnell and Kenner go along for the ride. “Amber Waves” resonates in shimmering sounds and guitars that reverberate off walls, with O’Donnell calling, “I’d trade my kingdom to fly, to drown in amber waves.” Darkness tightens its grip while its essence glimmers in the dusk, giving off a last gasp of hope. “Under Ice” is a buzzing, gruff take on the Kate Bush cut that they dress in their own sounds and smells, giving it a jolting reworking.
As a big fan of Planes Mistaken for Stars, this EP was a must-hear for me, and with O’Donnell battling for his life, it was nice to hear his trademark creak. Blunt Razors definitely isn’t making the heaviest music from a sound standpoint, but their complete commitment to personal darkness on “Early Aught” can make you tremble like to black metal band could. It would be great to get more from this project, as well as PMFS, but as O’Donnell’s health is far more important, we wish him the best on his fight, and we just to hear his voice again.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.bluntrazors.com/
To buy the album, go here: https://deathwishinc.com/collections/music
To donate to a Go Fund Me drive to help pay O’Donnell’s medical bills, go here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/gared-o039donnell/donate
For more on the label, go here: https://deathwishinc.com/