Review Summary: Short but oh so sweet
As Scarling.'s first proper album, it seems logical that it would bridge the gap between singer Jessicka's past, more volatile, work with Jack Off Jill, and the more melodic and mature approach on second album So Long, Scarecrow
. That, it does, overall, yet this album, however brief (running at just over 33 minutes), offers up a rich and varied playlist showcasing both past aggression and future atmospherics and melodicism in a small and well defined package.
First two tracks, The Last Day I Was Happy
and single Band Aid Covers The Bullet Hole
make for a very strong initial impression, the former in its dark and sensual atmosphere punctuated by heavily distorted bass and background screams evocative of Jessicka's past works, the latter in its almost cutesy verse melody and upbeat punk energy present in the chorus sections. However the album truly reaches its stride with Crispin Glover
, a concise yet perfectly formed tornado of a song driven by dynamic and furious drumming and big guitar chords underpinning a particularly strong performance from Jessicka, who never seems to stray into the overly melodramatic whilst remaining expressive and emotive.
The album begins to show its softer side from here on, continuing with Alexander The Burn Victim
, one of two of the more protracted songs, built around guitar atmospherics that rise and fall to envelop a beautiful vocal melody. Baby Dracula
continues the more mellow theme, though more concisely, if one of the less distinctive songs on offer, yet showcasing Jessicka's voice perhaps more than any other track with its more stripped down verse parts, remaining captivating in the process with its strong guitar hooks and subtle build up towards the end.
The most stark of contrasts however, is to be found in the almost 13 minutes occupied by final two songs, Black Horse, Riding Star
and Can't (Halloween Valentine)
. The former, more than anywhere else, is remeniscent of a more grown-up Jack Off Jill, with its sheer aggression, vocal screams and obscenity-ridden lyrics, yet interestingly veers almost towards prog-rock territory with a soft, atmospheric bridge section breaking the flow before the guitar riffs return like a shot of adrenaline.
The song is a change of pace brought just in time, particularly before the 7 minute closer, certainly the slowest and most atmospheric piece the album has to offer. Drifting into life with a reversed portion of the ending passage before an almost lazily strummed, heavily distorted guitar comes into focus, surrounded by an atmospheric lead guitar figure and supporting an utterly stunning vocal performance, full of emotion yet somehow distant, becoming more desperate as the track progresses, transforming from soft and serene to big and heavy where the drums and bass are brought in. The song leaves just as it came, with Jessicka repeating a mantra whilst the guitars become increasingly out of control, before melting into a reversed version of itself, as heard at the very beginning.
It may be short, and it may sound like it doesn't quite know whether it's a shoegaze album or a more mature version of Jack Off Jill, but Sweet Heart Dealer
is a consistently entertaining, dynamic and atmospheric debut, where, despite her past with Jack Off Jill, Jessicka sounds more at home than ever, making this album so much more than just a curiosity for fans of her previous band.