Review Summary: The soundtrack to the grinding gears of the human psyche.
On either side of a worryingly grey divide sit ‘sadness’, and ‘happiness’. What makes them different? Who stipulates whereabouts the divide is? Obviously, the emotions on either side are polar opposites of each other, but what is it that sets them apart? About ten years ago now, I went to a chiropractic clinic and on the corkboard in the waiting room was a motivational poster, like the ones that have a picture of a climber and then a single word like, 'determination'. This poster was a little different, though; There was a picture of two smiling monkeys at the bottom and just above was a short poem, which began, ‘smiling is infectious, you catch it like the flu/ when someone smiled at me today, I started smiling too…’.The rest of poem continued to focus on the spreading of smiles around the human race like some bizarre pandemic. I’m sure there are many readers who have encountered the same or variations of the poster, but it was not until somewhat recently I realised how misleading such a poem was. On the surface, it is a perfectly innocent message; be happy! What harm can it do? Smile! But, in talking about the infectious nature of smiling, casual readers attribute the action as closely linked with happiness; the difference is, happiness is an emotion that requires a causal link, whereas smiling is simply a flexing of the facial muscles around the mouth into an upwards pivot. In presenting the topic of smiling in this way, the manufacturers of the poster made it seem that happiness is something that gets passed around from person to person and requires little effort to obtain. In fact, the opposite is true; sadness is a more pervasive, cancerous emotion than anything else. How many people out of a group does it take to ruin an outing because of a miserable attitude? It’s irrelevant, because at the end of the day, the infection has been spread around everyone.
The universal nature of misery is manifest in the form of thirty vicious excursions that are both atonal but curiously harmonious. There is an intense expression at the heart of every song on the collection that screams frustration and anxiety, and this is thanks to the musical direction as opposed to the lyricism. The confused and ethereal sound demands attention from the listener; demands the listener pay attention to the suffering that is present every discordant second. Schizophrenic song structures and odd occasional ventures into more melodic territory only serve to make the experience more surreal, yet in a brutal, beauteous way. The madness is occasionally punctuated by minimalist reveries and interludes that allow the listener a few fleeting moments of clarity throughout to reflect on a journey of such perverse sound: a sound of anger. As the album title suggests, though, this is not a release concerned with anger. There’s a far more resigned core at the heart of the music; one of hopelessness and depravity that is simultaneously filthy as a mire and clean as a whistle. The sound is thick and sludgy, loaded with a plethora of subtle asides and not-so-subtle technical proficiency, a number of riffs drawing stylistic parallels to Black Sabbath. The whole experience is tied together by the vocal performance from Steve Austin, who utilises his trademark high pitched, heavily distorted wails. The shrieking shapes the whole experience into a fierce production of almost vaudevillian excess, and over the course of the two hour plus running time, the sound is constantly shifting tempo, tone and musical direction; always overpowering, never overwhelming.
Harsh lyrics and sexual/violent imagery has long been a staple of Today Is The Day’s sound, and Sadness Will Prevail
is no exception. In a contrast to other releases by the band, the lyricism present here display a clipped, puzzling portrait of articulate but disquieting language. The form and use of English is unusual but intelligent, utilising lyrics that appear to have little punctuation and haphazardly use words at strange points, sometimes in the middle of half-formed sentences. In almost a reflection of the themes present on the release, the dizzy, disturbing lyrical structure displays a clever mirror image of the confusion and angst that pervades the music. Such lines as, ‘Disguise you're happy drive your will down design your backseat take this pill now you're up in flames and it's your world now try to be strong though I know you won't try at all It won't be easy you can take down anyone love up in flames and it won't come down stop crying those tears it won't help’, appear to have little meaning, but when juxtaposed with the abrasive sound of the music, the overarching theme of sadness completes the sound, and hints at a more intelligent subtext. That subtext, however, is unique to each listener
One of the things I have always liked about such experimental genres as noise, grind etc. is the scope. If a random grind song were to appear on the radio, and the listener isn’t familiar with the band/ song/ album, the song will mean very little to them (aside from appreciation for the heavy nature of the music). However, put that song in the context of the album, and you realize that you were looking at but a square inch of a towering work of art. The tiny section on its own has minimal meaning, but in looking at the bigger picture, a whole new level of appreciation is attained. With Sadness Will Prevail
, though, there is no understanding. Even when the listener appreciates the whole picture as much as they possibly can, there is still no understanding. There is only a comprehension- a comprehension for the experience. There are no questions asked or addressed throughout Sadness Will Prevail
, only a very specific intended meaning that listeners who put enough time in will appreciate. What is that meaning? I don’t have a clue, but the experience as well as the emotion I took from it will live with me forever.