Review Summary: Frighteningly beautiful.
Poignancy isn’t really feigned; the most terrifyingly heart-wrenching moments in our lives involve those closest to us: our family and friends. Not lugubrious teenage heartbreak, not our mundane daily routines which somehow evoke a despondency that seemingly intensifies (but is actually probably just aggrandized) as the days go by while we realize that life has somehow passed us by and “the rest of our lives” has begun, and certainly not “the system”, perhaps the most impersonal of all our familiar tormentors. Music, and art, by token, is rife with emotion – hell, it’s an outlet for our frustrations, fears, elations, emotions
, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that every drop of emotion plucks solemnly at our heartstrings. Of course, that’s all subjective, but the ones who often get it [closest to] right are the ones whose messages are the most incisive and most universal.
Merchant Ships got it right.
Relentless and fervidly emotive, Merchant Ships’ final contribution to the screamo world is a brief, yet passionate affair. The guitars are at times warm and animated, and at other times jarring and brusque, but always working in unison with ardent and spastic drumwork to layer the album with an organic and lucid backdrop upon which the tormented, biting screams of vocalist Jack Senff resonate with impetuous candor and striking vehemence. It’s not screaming for the sake of noise; Senff’s tortured wails are so perfect because of the visceral desperation that gushes from every abject and poignant lyric that he is able to muster. The grim gang howls of “from me to you with sincerity” over the prolonged and brooding instrumental undertow on “Dying” lead to the final agonizing proclamation of “I won’t ever leave”, shrieked with a perhaps incomparably forlorn veracity. Senff’s despairing and languished lyrics about the spontaneous dismantling of his humble, immaculate family as a child are frightening in their simplicity, and when they roar out of his throat, biting candor evident and dripping from each word, it becomes a horrifying, distress-inducing affair. And just as the somber mood is set, melancholy gripping everything within view, the brash guitars of “Sentinel” come crashing through the horizon, accompanied by the blustery, almost hubristic “I want to see the backs of your fucking eyes, crying, pleading: ‘please stop hurting me’”. Censure pervades every note, every crash, every scream, until fatigue overcomes the group and the song is repose, the only audible sounds the anxious and shallow breathing of an exasperated Senff. Suddenly, lethargy forgotten, each member of the band storms the sonic envelope in a blind fury fuelled by passion and almost palpable malice, thunderous chords filled with scathing emotion, bass sprinting frantically and erratically, and a reviling uproar of gang vocals creating a frenetic atmosphere. It’s a terse, but potent sonic onslaught, for its frigid punch lingers retroactively, the terrifyingly perverse taunt of “you will never escape” echoing in our minds even as the trenchant chords and dismal miasma of “Sleep Patterns” pervades the soundscape.
The album runs an unorthodox gambit, delivering both achingly effectual music and horrifying spoken word, specifically in the eerie “Sleep Patterns”, in which the speaker calmly describes a gruesome dream in incredibly vivid detail. As the soft, melancholy acoustic guitar emits intermittent chords, the story is brought to the forefront, the explicit “my neck is broken, and my skull is fractured, I bleed to death in excruciating pain” delivered with a sociopathic nonchalance that inspires indignation and terror. Suddenly, the entire band enters, softly building in tension as the speaker describes his plans to bring his dream to fruition. As the group reaches the limits of their crescendo, our speaker abandons his monotone expression, finally emoting a semblance of trepidation as the music ceases and he utters the intensely human “I am afraid”. Really, it’s the subtleties of the album – the pithy flashes of honesty, the acute, laconic declarations, the debilitating “oh shit, that’s me” moments – that make it so profound. The instrumentation is perfectly suited to evince the emotions, at times reserved and at others ostentatious, depending on the targeted sentiment, and consistently provide a picturesque canvas upon which Jack Senff is free to paint with a chromatic palate of honesty and ardor. For Cameron
is an agonizing ordeal of a screamo record that, despite its brevity, terrifies and haunts in its desperation, bleak lyricism, and consummate instrumentation, attacking all of our emotions individually and relentlessly, ultimately making it a fiercely draining but profoundly rewarding listen.