Review Summary: Exploding Head is the next defining step in A Place To Bury Strangers' short span
Yeah, yeah, we get it
. A Place To Bury Strangers are basically the second coming of the legendary shoegaze/post-punk bands of the past twenty/thirty years. So there, that will be the last time A Place To Bury Strangers will be compared to their influences. What they are doing now is far more important. With their self-titled debut, we found a stripped down, poorly produced album that was rightly praised despite its lack of fine tuning. And while they account for a relative minority, there are people whom refuse to listen to dated music (i.e. music not relevant to their generation). In fact, to an unsuspecting listener, A Place To Bury Strangers’ newest album, Exploding Head
might as well be the most badass thing they have ever heard. That is because it is.
What makes A Place To Bury Strangers so appealing is their fusion of dissonant guitar riffs that mingle with gorgeous vocal work all within a dense atmosphere. Softly spoken, but never overpowered, guitarist/singer Oliver Ackermann does no harm to any particular track. In short, Exploding Head
was planned perfectly, starting with the vocal management. Ackermann sings when necessary, songs end when they should, and every hook, whether vocally or instrumentally, compliments almost too
well. “Smile When You Smile” swirls behind hypnotizing snare hits, as its pop-laden verses manage the song until it fades into the bass-heavy “Everything Always Goes Wrong.” In fact, the bass riffs in Exploding Head
are astonishingly simple in theory, yet the removal would be detrimental to any sort of album identity (it helps when the bassist does not act as an underlying patsy to the guitar for the entire album). Never flashy, yet always effective, whether the bass glosses a bridge or introduces any particular track it is simply divine. With every riff, A Place To Bury Strangers burst with confidence and the safety knowing that what they are writing is in perfect harmony.
Once again, it is this sort of self-esteem that allows A Place To Bury Strangers to be removed of any unnecessary experimentation in order to separate themselves from their self-titled album and other bands. The drumming heartbeat of “Lost Feeling” pulsates as guitars screech and reverb in-and-out as Ackermann sings ‘I’m dying to meet you/I’m dying to see you/I’m dying to hold your hand/ I’m dying to have you/ some things never go away/ but the feeling’s gone, the feeling is gone.’ Clearly, even the lyrics are removed of any type of sugar-coating. Ackermann’s use and manipulation of pedals is all A Place To Bury Strangers needs in order to be successful. His side hobby of making pedals allows songs like “Keep Slipping Away” to sound as if a piano produced the main riff, which is inventive enough without self-imposed wankery. Lastly shines, “I Lived My Life to Stand in the Shadow of Your Heart,” the epic marquee of Exploding Head
that starts with a loud and passionate bass riff as vocal melodies sit atop a continuous instrumental build-up. The closer becomes engulfed with a persistent, chugging bass guitar until a cataclysmic wall of sound brings closure to perhaps the album’s finest moment.
Throughout the forty-three minute course of the album, the mass of sound never overwhelms, simply bolsters every thick, grooving bass riff. A Place To Bury Strangers would feel a grave injustice if their listeners kept the volume lower than the maximum allotted for any set of speakers or headphones. This album needs to be cranked; as a successful listen is one that is followed by ringing eardrums and a deep exhale of contentment. Exploding Head
holds as one of the most consistent, mind-blowing releases this year, unwavering of an any possible identity crisis. It is safe to say A Place To Bury Strangers have officially made a name for themselves, and it is rather rewarding to know their style is here to stay.