Review Summary: We are desperate kids, doing extraordinary things.
For a while there it looked to be like The Saddest Landscape would be remembered above all for that fucking thing that goddamn singer does with his voice
. Fans know the one: when Andy Maddox’s vocals start to warble through his tortured screaming, then, all of the sudden, everything cuts out, and we’re just left with Maddox half speaking, half wallowing, panting while he drips in his own sweat as it pours through the speakers. It’s the sound of potency at its most palpable. And then sometime back in 2005, the band just… broke up. You could have heard the tiniest blip. It’s not that no one cared, but more a case of "man, that skramz band with that guy with that voice that does that thing just broke up." "Shit
". And it just sorta stopped there. It’s not that the band hadn’t managed to carve out a minor masterpiece in Lift Your Burdens High For This Is Where We Cross
, but more that they just never managed to let everyone know about the damn thing.
Fast-forward a couple of years, and suddenly, the 90s are back in again (had they ever left?). Pianos Become the Teeth were the first of it, then everyone decided Envy stopped sucking (lie), La Dispute, although they never quite got the hang of writing songs, had creativity and the attitude to back themselves up, and so on and so on. Oh, and The Saddest Landscape reformed. While fans will be pleased to know that Andy is still doing that thing
, most everyone should be excited to hear the band has put out their tightest and most focused record of their career. The trademarks are still there: the jangly whirlwind melodies, cutting up and down through a maze of sprawling songwriting, as well as the shift-in/shift-out dynamic that sees the band taking listeners through low valleys of rumbling bass and twinkling guitar lines, all the way to cathartic peaks of chaotic arrangements that bubble and burst with energy and desperation.
What this is not
however, is more of the same. While The Saddest Landscape still maintain their singular sound, it’s one that is, unlike any of their previous records, sculpted to a tee. The difference is this: previously, the band always sounded as if they got caught with their pants down trying to play along side Maddox. It’s not that they weren’t up to it – they were, and always have been – but the point is they always seemed to be playing in parallel, Maddox on the one hand, the band on the other. The gap itself had its own charm, landing the band a DIY sound that made them punk as fuck
. But here on You Will Not Survive
, the band are finally playing as a unit, twisting and tarrying around each other, pushing, pulling, challenging, and ultimately, opening up themselves to explore what had only been visible on the edges of their sound.
This means you’ll find songs like “So Lightly Thrown”, which finds the terms reversed, this time with Maddox caught in a hail of drums raining down around him, chords crashing left and right, while he literally screams and fights his way out of the mess. The reward? An expanse of bright melody, open and free, and reminiscent of – of all things – the airy lightness of Sed Non Satiata (who incidentally have put out this years best skramz record). Or others, like the minute and a half “The Shadows I Call Home” with a chorus that was made to break necks to. And finally, those craving a feminine touch will find it on “Imperfect But Ours”, with Laura Stevenson (of Bomb The Music Industry!) providing a backdrop of haunting choral melody to cap it all off. The moral of this story is quite simple. If and when The Saddest Landscape becomes another one of those screamo bands
you listened to, You Will Not Survive
will hopefully ensure that they’ll be remembered for everything they are – focused, emotional, brilliant.