Review Summary: Not quite the earth mover that was "Deathconsciousness," but Have a Nice Life's long awaited second record is a logical next step and a worthwhile listen nonetheless.
Beginning an album review by discussing a band’s previous work is trite at best; a needlessly convenient way to lead into a meatier discussion. In the case of Have a Nice Life, however, it is absolutely necessary. Deathconsciousness
isn’t an album that can just be swept under a rug, cowed down for its successor. No, Deathconsciouness
is an album that one could talk about endlessly, mining its corridors and perplexing twists and turns all the while becoming lost time and time again. In a way Have a Nice Life is
the very album that they’ve become known for. Starting out as a bedroom project between two men, Dan Barret and Tim Macuga, the band quickly evolved into something much more profound. Drawing inspiration from acts that run the gamut, Have a Nice Life come across as an amalgam of My Bloody Valentine’s fuzziest tones, Nine Inch Nail’s most angst ridden noises, and the sublime essence of Joy Division. Add a twinge of black metal and set it against a drone background and you just about have all that is Have a Nice Life. With such a signature, refreshing sound, it should come as no surprised that their sophomore record comes hotly anticipated.
The Unnatural World
came as both a surprise and completely expected. With rumors of a three hour record circulating for months, the band had finally blown the lid off, so to speak, of the must gestating work. But when the mere 50 minute album finally dropped, it became readily apparent that this was a different beast entirely. Where Deathconsciousness
trudged along like moving earth, The Unnatural World
moves with absolute deliberate focus. Existing almost as a straightforward post-punk experience, the record is oddly benign. While still holding steadfastly to their aggressive acoustic sensibilities, HANL have concentrated every influence heard throughout their relatively meager discography. Songs like “Burial Society” still have a lo-fi, ethereal quality to them, yet feature a more scathing tone a la “Waiting for Black Metal Record.” It’s compact but still holds the same uneasy aura that made the band so beloved.
Truth be told, The Unnatural World
just makes a lot more sense. It’s undeniably better written-everything flows more naturally and the production is cleaner but still loveably murky. But one cannot help but feel that the duo have become, let’s say, domesticated
. The crackling drones that unexpectedly led to dramatic outbursts are all but gone here. Even the moments of beautiful ambience have lost their bite. It’s HANL collared and groomed. And honestly, it just doesn’t feel quite as profound. That sense of organic discovery is completely lost when everything falls into place so perfectly. None of the record’s eight tracks blend together seamlessly, or complement each other in any way. This is an album with absolute structure with punctuated and logical breaks that separates the work into digestible and agreeable pieces. As a sensible album it works wonderfully. As a HANL creation, it feels stunted.
“Guggenheim Wax Museum” begins the record much in the way “A Quick One Before The Eternal” did all those years ago. Mired in lo-fi fuzz it acts as soft introduction. Unlike the latter of the two, this opener is not content with droning along, as about halfway through it collapses into a guitar feedback driven melody. This is emblematic of The Unnatural World
as a whole. Everything has much more purpose than before. Songs that were once aimless have transformed into thunderous and dark anthems that rock along. The back to back “Defenestration Song” and “The Burial Society” highlight the deliberate pace that the record takes. It is like “Woe Onto Us” cleaned up, with simplistic guitar tones leading the band like a carrot on a string. But HANL still happen to surprise, as the unsettling “Cropsey” sounds abyssal in its dark delivery. Yet when “Emptiness Will Eat the Witch” final enters it comes like a breath of fresh air. The simple track is haunting, but completely light in its approach. Soft guitar and hollowed out voices accent the ambience that comes to the forefront. It’s an odd way to end it all as it ignores much of the dark chaos that precedes it.
The Unnatural World
, as stated previously, makes a lot of sense both as an album and as a next step for the band. It sounds stunning, retaining the dark and impermeable atmosphere that HANL has become known for. It’s hazy and mysterious, still sounding like a stumbled upon bedroom project gone beautifully awry. The songs are much more defined and the record as a whole is monumentally more welcoming. The Unnatural World
is the punk rock ethos of Deathconsciousness
coming into its own and it feels really good to hear. New comers to the underground darlings will find quite a lot to love here. But longtime fans-those who fell madly in love reading every line Jean-Paul Marat’s story-will bemoan the lack of everything that made HANL’s debut such a marvel. It’s unwieldy and peculiar delivery is still there, but buffered and polished. At the end of the day, however, it’s difficult to complain when it all sounds so wondrously well composed.