Review Summary: But really, this is all catastrophic...
I’m going to break the ice with a dumb question: What do you hear the moment the lights are switched off and your vision blanks out?
Do you hear anything at all? Sure, maybe you left the television on and some laugh-track American sitcom is still murmuring on in the background and maybe your cat’s purring a little louder than usual. Perhaps the plumbing is conspiring some sort of toilet take-over, gurgling suspiciously under the floorboards. Maybe it sounds like silence. Whatever it is, now, think about it: is that what black
sounds like? You know, the colour? No? Well, what does black sound like to you? If you’re anything like me, you’re probably playing a stupid association game in your head: “Well, there’s black magic. The black market. Black death, blackmail, black cats, the unknown. Black sounds creepy, if I’m entirely honest.”
Or maybe you’re a little more optimistic and thought of things like delicious black tea
or Black Friday shopping sales. Good for you - but you know what? It doesn’t matter. Casey Creszenco, the pretentious prick he is, knew that we’d be having this debate the minute he decided to make 9 EPs based on colours in the colour spectrum. He doesn’t care. He told us straight up that each of the EPs were simply his
interpretation of the respective colour. So, if you’d be so kind, from this point on, deal with it - Casey thinks the colour Black
sounds like grimy, glitchy electronics and aggressive rock antics and he’s written four pretty bangin’ songs to prove his point.
Being that Casey interprets black to be a pretty angry hue (or lack thereof), the songs are pretty bleak in tone - because the entire Color Spectrum
collection is removed from the band’s usual life-story concept, Creszenco has the opportunity to write his lyrics in a style much more personal than we’re used to and the results are pretty impressive on Black
. He channels his contempt inwards on ‘This Body’ (“I can’t say that I mind this body burning ‘cause this body’s not a temple, it’s a prison”
), he screams it out angrily outwards on ‘Never Forgive, Never Forget’ (“You want to see me crawl? You need to watch me beg and lose it all!
”) and he cleverly details corruption throughout ‘Filth and Squalor’ (”Sucking on a scraps of a wicked wealth, we were bound by need to vicious villainy
”). Naturally, Creszenco’s typical, theatrical lyrics are full of silly bombast and silly alliterations and whether or not that gels with you is your cup of tea but it ends up being pretty seamless with the band’s musical choices and general tone on Black
So, with that
in mind, consider this: freeing Creszenco’s songwriting from the bounds of a six-album-long concept story, he no longer is dictated by driving a narration forward. Neither is the band. The band is, however, bound to the task of taking every angry word that Casey belts out and backing it up with such angry (and awesome) music that you’re forced to believe every word said. Done and done. Treading new territory straight from the get-go, ‘Never Forgive, Never Forget’ takes its time - snare rolls and thundering but reserved bass shots open the song under a layer of brooding, dirty electronics before everything bursts into an off-kilter, off-beat percussive potpourri of bass guitar, electronic glitches and rim-shots. It’s a pretty impressive start to the EP, I can’t lie - what follows it up is even better. The aforementioned electronics, entirely new to the band, litter the EP but never become overbearing - ‘Filth and Squalor’ is treated to a warbling, bass-y synth line that seamlessly wobbles in, out and in between Creszenco’s confident lower register, giving the song just enough swagger and groove to really thrive. But rest assured, the production is not the star of Black
either - if anything, it’s drummer Nick Creszenco. Nick’s always had a way to make the most complex, creative and somehow understated drum patterns and he goes to town on Black
, gelling hand-in-hand with the bass guitar to make each song an exercise in rhythmic glory. His creative grooves and simple fills, especially when locked in with the bass, manage to brilliantly underscore all the chaos that the rest of the instruments and Casey throw on top. And let me say, to be able to outshine Casey Creszenco’s vocal performance is a feat in itself.
It’s not all success though. A few minor squabbles and a major one: there are a few awkward moments dispersed in ‘Take More Than You Need’ (especially the completely structureless and meandering solo), a handful of unnecessary interludes in ‘Never Forgive and Forget’ and ‘This Body’ has a powerful chorus that entirely and completely misfires. This chorus is built around a very catchy hook that, each and every time, is followed by a melodically bereft wretch of “yeaaaaaaaahhhhh!
” that robs the chorus of its charm instantly. Thankfully, it’s not enough to ruin the song on its own but fear not: the boring robotic bridge section is classic meat-headed riffing that goes nowhere and accomplishes nothing. Whoops. But you know what? It’s forgivable in the greater scheme of things - and the greater scheme isn’t deciding whether or not “black” sounds like robots, electronics, percussion or whatever but it’s about the fact The Dear Hunter have made (almost) four fantastic songs that are nothing like anything they’ve done before. If they needed a silly colour concept to achieve that, that’s fine.