Review Summary: Gorgeous and uplifting, despite what their titles might imply.
Almost every facet of contemporary music these days seem to be pushing for an emphasis on “atmosphere.” Popular genres such as rock, hip-hop, electronic, and yes even metal seem to be in a state of transition. One could soundly argue that the foundation of many of these genres have always rooted themselves in atmospheric soundscapes. But in a genre like black metal-a genre that prides itself in its affinity for capturing the essence of suffering-it has seen an interesting evolution in sound. The boundaries of the genre have shifted toward a much more uplifting listening experience and in doing so have gained notoriety from many who would’ve once dismissed such extreme styles of music. Long-time fans of the genre have slapped “blackgaze” or even “hipster metal” tags on this new era of black metal artists but the fact remains that it has attracted much more attention from the music community at large.
After listening to An Autumn for Crippled Children’s latest LP,Try Not to Destroy Everything You Love
, you can tell that the band were aiming for a similar level of success as last year’s Sunbather
. Deafheaven’s magnum opus was quite well received and set the bar to nearly impossible heights for other blackgaze acts to come. It would be unfair to say that they haven’t been playing the “uplifting” card since before Deafheaven’s success, but to be so hot on Sunbather’s heels definitely indicates a “strike while the iron is hot” approach. Fortunately, TNTDEYL has its own identity, and on the whole it’s a pretty engaging listen.
What really gives this album its flair is the synth-work. The songs feel like they could’ve almost begun as synth-pop tunes, but through cruel mad science experiments have mutated into ethereal, avant-garde black metal. Autumn Again’s post punk sensibility sets an interesting tone for the album, immediately highlighting the layered synth passages that dominate the record. The way in which the bass plods along phenomenally with the melody also serves as an absolute standout to these songs. Once again the band experiments with strings and proves that they’re capable of bringing in a variety of different sounds and textures into the overall mix.
The songwriting is another praiseworthy aspect of the record. Many tracks such as “The Woods Are on Fire” and “Never Complete” begin in medias res and feel grand despite the lo-fi quality to the production. Both songs build to an absolutely stunning conclusion and miraculously make their point in less than five minutes, a feat that Deafheaven never managed to do on Sunbather. In fact, none of the tracks on TNTDEYL exceed the six minute mark, making it feel much less meandering than most other blackgaze records. The build on “Sepia Mountains for Her Lament” is perhaps the defining moment of the record, transitioning from a haunting piano movement into a crescendo of guitars and strings that climax at the apex of the album’s musical high point.
The album does suffer a bit on the production side of things however. While the instrumentation may sound grandiose despite the lo-fi aspect of the mix, the vocals are nearly drowned out entirely throughout the duration of the record. This may agitate some depending on how much emphasis you feel the vocals should have, but I found that with repeat listens this problem doesn’t feel quite as aggravating.
Try Not to Destroy Everything You Love
is a gorgeous record. Perhaps if it had come one year earlier than it did, it might’ve met more acclaim than what it’s already received. Still, anybody who was enamored with bands like Deafheaven or Altar of Plagues last year should enjoy this. It manages to forge its own identity amidst the increasingly saturated post black metal movement, something that a sizeable amount of other bands in the genre seem to struggle with.