What do we expect from our beloved artists who are so deeply rooted with a singular, albeit explosive, sound? At this point in their career A Place to Bury Strangers are unbeatable at creating the most devastating psychedelic rock out there. I mean, who really wants these guys to transition into a lighter version of themselves? What makes them great is their recklessness, the chaos that ensues on stage and their simple approach to making music; be louder than everyone, but always catchy.
So many reviews can be based solely on the idea that a band’s merit, or quality of output, rests in their creative malleability, which will hopefully result in a “career.” But music’s not always about “progress” – or whatever that even means in this decade. A new album or single can demonstrate an escalation – a memorable and moving song with simple melodies, basic guitar chords and rhythms that we’ve all heard a million times. APTBS re-arrange the basic elements of Noise-Pop by destroying whatever preconceived notion you had towards the genre. Instruments are merely tools used to test the limits and knowledge of what sonic exploration really means, and Onwards to the Wall resembles the Home Depot at times.
Case in point: Oliver Ackerman operates the amazing Death By Audio effect pedals and custom stomp box brand. Most of these pedals sound like shock-and-awe devices detonating entire cities. Onwards to the Wall demonstrates that magnitude and range of power in a single guitar strum or click of a distortion box. On the other hand, it also succeeds by offering songs with cleaner passages, putting vocals first and allowing other instruments and new sounds a chance to lead the platoon into battle. It’s a nice look for a band that has already mastered both the loud-quiet-loud and LOUD-LOUD-LOUD formulas without ditching any of the inventiveness and sheer noise-making freak-outs that defines the group’s persona.
For worshipers of the trio, Onwards to the Wall is completely satisfying within the first few seconds of “I Lost You” and the equally intense “So Far Away.” Guitars rattle, scream and melt only to re-construct seconds later. The propulsive rhythms are much heavier and human-like than on previous releases. APTBS’s bass guitar is usually the last piece of shrapnel that grazes you. But you’ll notice how it consistently defines the song’s central melody.
The title track is the real clue to where APTBS might be headed on their next album. “Onwards to the Wall” steers away from the noise (briefly) and offers a gloomier yet clean palette of greys with a call-and-response vocal interplay. Featuring vocalist Alanna Nuala, she and Oliver Ackerman gaze into each other’s eyes over a Cure-influenced bass line. Both Nuala and Ackerman come across pretty disaffected, but there’s also this slight glimmer of tension in their deliveries that gives the track an approachable and sexy feel. Of course, Ackerman’s machine gun-buzzsaw-razor blade guitars will completely blow you away on every track, but you already had a hunch the moment you bought this record. In fact, he didn’t just make the sounds; he literally built them with his bare hands. words/ s mcdonald