Review Summary: Massachusetts tech-punk geniuses A Wilhelm Scream raise the bar yet again.
In the careers of truly amazing bands, there's usually a turning point to be found where the band transitions from just "great" or "good" to "***-the-bed-insane." This turning point is often triggered by the arrival of a new member, whose spectacular musical ability gives the rest of the band a sound kick up the arse and forces them to up their game somewhat. It happened to Iron Maiden
when Bruce joined. It happened to NOFX
with the arrival of El Hefe. And now it's happened to A Wilhelm Scream; after the relative underground successes of Mute Print
, the New Bedford tech-punk masters have been joined by new bassist Brian Robinson, and subsequently kicked things up a notch or twelve.
Those already familiar with the band will no doubt be aware of their previously incredibly high standard of turbo-charged skate-punk, laced with a double shot of harmonies (of both the vocal and the guitar varieties), but even the highest of expectations will be smashed apart by Career Suicide
. First and foremost, this is a fast and thoroughly relentless album from start to triumphant finish; some might call such an approach rather one-dimensional, but the sheer impact of every single track points more towards terms like "focused." Much has been said about the immense bass skills that Brian's brought to the table, but it really does bear repeating: the guy is an absolute MACHINE! There's barely a single moment where he's not throwing down insane runs up and down the fretboard, frantic fills, or bouncy melodic basslines, but never does he stray into the realm of over-playing, and every note he plays adds to and complements the rest of the music. As such, he's really turned up the heat for the rest of the band, with drummer Nick Angelini in particular turning in a stellar performance, with faster beats, more increasingly technical fills, and a much more aggressive approach than ever before. Not to be outdone, guitarists Trevor Reilly and Chris Levesque, in addition to their usual array of harmonised tapping riffs, speedy powerchord progressions, and melodic octave-chord lines, have pulled some frantic solos out of the bag, which compliment their increasingly technical lead guitar skills perfectly. Vocalist Nuno Pereira tops things off with a more refined performance than ever before; his more aggressive parts are gruffer and stronger sounding than previous efforts and the melodic parts, particularly the sublime three-part harmonies (shared with Trevor and Brian) are even smoother and more full-voiced than we've come to expect. It's also worth mentioning the fine production work by Bill Stevenson and Jason Livermore, with that signature punchy Blasting Room style taken to new levels of raw impact and clarity; one improvement being the slightly lesser emphasis on the vocal harmonies. At first this was a dissappointment, but it soon became obvious that in putting them lower in the mix, Jason and Bill have given Career Suicide
a much more live feel.
Even in the face of such consistent quality and performance, there are still certain moments which will make your jaw drop. For example, the tight interplay in the rhythm section at the start of "5 to 9,"
where rapid bass tapping and intricate drumming lock together in an almost mathcore-like display of rhythmic finesse behind the melodic guitar flourishes. Or how about the infectious up-and-down lead guitar harmonies that herald the arrival of "These Dead Streets."
Or then again there's the rapid vocal trade-offs and harmonies throughout "The Horse,"
not to mention the sick bass tapping towards the start of the song. And then there's the bass and guitar solos in "Jaws 3, People 0,"
and the snaking vocal harmonies at the start of "Cold Slither II,"
and the particularly frantic drumming during the intro of "Check Request Denied,"
and... Well, it's probably best I leave it at that, because if I were to continue with a comprehensive list of highlights, I'd end up listing pretty much every part of every song.
What is worth mentioning though, is the comparitive risks the band have taken with the songwriting here. The songs which do stick to the typical verse-chorus-verse structure are all typically short-sharp-shock affairs, like scorching opener "I Wipe My Ass With Showbiz,"
the thundering "Pardon Me, Thanks a Lot,"
and the title track, where the running times barely scrape the 90 second mark, meaning that the amount of repetition is minimal and, if anything, leaves the listener wanting more. In stark contrast to this, "The Horse"
and epic closer "We Built This City! (On Debts and Booze)"
reach their conclusions around the 5 minute mark. The band sustain the listener's interest by utilising unusual song structures, by cramming several ideas into each and every part, and by using subdued bridge sections to build up to several increasingly dramatic crescendos, before bursting into a final chorus laden with extra harmonies (in the latter) or an completely new ending part (the former). It's also worth pointing out that some of the shorter tracks also pack in almost as many ideas in half the time, with special mentions going to "Our Ghosts (Contemporary/Consensual)"
and Japanese/Australian bonus track "Route 40 and 1 Six."
Even the lyrics on Career Suicide
are particularly impressive, with the band's trademark humour coming through in some of the song titles ("Get Mad, You Son of a Bitch!"
anyone?), and the gruesome portrayal of death at sea in "Jaws 3, People 0"
("How we ruined the day's remains/Sinful/The bodies splashed like paint/To see so many cockroaches running from the light."
), and a somewhat philosophical view of humanity in "The Horse,"
comparing it to life as a racehorse ("The bastard strangle of this hateful world/Is a captive bolt-gun/We're disposable!"
). These are just a few of the insightful, off-kilter, and interesting lyrical nuggets that the band have thrown out in their own distinctive style.
Despite all the praise I've heaped upon it, Career Suicide
is still very much a grower. Upon first hearing it, only about half of the tracks really jumped out at me, and the rest sort of paled in comparison. But each subsequent listen revealed new delights and depths to the songs that I'd somehow missed before. It may take you a while to realise it, but make no mistake, there are absolutely no weak points, no downsides, no chinks in the armour of Career Suicide.
This is the sort of album that inspires non-musicians to start playing, and seasoned musicians to hang up their instruments, frustrated in the knowledge that they'll never reach this kind of standard. In short, Career Suicide TOTALLY. FUCKING. RIPS.
Get it now, you son of a bitch!