Review Summary: Finding solace and grace in rubble and shrapnel.
It’s dark, it’s cold as Hell outside and hot as Hell within. A mess of slippery, writhing limbs whirl and convulse in sync with blasts of sound – and perhaps some strobe lights, if you’re lucky. The sounds are ugly and inscrutable, the attendees often perpetual blurs of motion in the mosh pit.
I’m speaking, of course, about seeing a hardcore show (my first was watching Modern Life Is War play Witness in Philadelphia). Shows like these are often violent, brief, and inglorious – they are also often cathartic experiences, bringing people together and offering some counterintuitive notions of how beauty goes in the world of music.
Listening to Saudade’s A Long Lifetime of Dying Slowly
reminds me of going to see those shows, of those first evenings spent screaming myself hoarse and embracing the awesome energy of a hardcore show. It’s imperfect and occasionally awkward, it’s aggressively ugly, and it also has moments that transcend and inspire, often reminding me of my first encounters with hardcore and emo in great ways.
“Saudade”, by the way, is a Portuguese term which roughly translates to, “a deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves”, according to Wikipedia. Oof. Presuming that the band were referencing the term and not vice versa, this definition is an apt way of describing their sound. Sadder than sad, more melancholy than Ms. Collie herself, Saudade play a quick-and-dirty brand of punk on A Long Lifetime…, featuring muddy yet intricate guitar work (which often takes the lead in shimmering, ornate clean passages), pounding and often explosive bass and drums prominently filling the rhythm section, and vocals that are so typically ugly and desperate that they lend to the recording a true air of authenticity.
The vocals stand out in this mix, catchy and memorable in their trebly and nasty delivery, and they pair excellently with the propulsive guitar work. Saudade don’t do anything so remarkable for the genre, here, but they play it largely solid, and the exciting exchange between the vocals and guitar seems to solidify this.
A pervasive issue, though, on a A Long Lifetime… is its production. The album consistently sounds like it was recorded and mixed within a brown paper bag. Instrumentation can often sound like indiscernible static in the background, and the album itself seems to have a lot of “clipping” issues which render all ends of the bass spectrum overly distorted. Part of this, I imagine, is in keeping with the aesthetic fads of counterparts and/or forerunners (i.e., City of Caterpillar, pg. 99, Orchid) but at this point, I am beginning to find it a tad tiresome when I continually find myself straining to hear the full range of a group’s instrumentation and compositions. Saudade have been around since at least 2013, and it would be a great benefit to their work if we could a hear a release that isn’t so muddled. Some might argue that this an integral and inextricable component of the sound; I call B.S. on this.
The lyrics also occasionally undermine the interests of the atmosphere and emotional heft of the recording, components which themselves are excellently established and maintained in the sonic sense from beginning to end. I suspect this is an issue arising from young Italian fellows choosing to pen their songs in the English language – nonetheless, it is a bit of a mood-killer when you delve into the lyrics sheets on otherwise great tracks like “Drone Distance”, anticipating depth and maturity, only to find lines like “Take a closer look/can you believe what you see? What do you see? Of course nothing/you’re one damn blind bitch. No you can’t see these wounds/***ing asshole. You can’t see me whole/die whore.” Or on the closing track “New Purposes”, which otherwise memorably and powerfully concludes the recording: “Sodomite, antidepressants, swarm of stones, in your mouth. I don’t know wack/just that I must ingest the grey/to tear off my shade.” Is something lost in translation, here? Or is the penmanship just lacking a certain gravitas? It’s often hard to tell, and sometimes I feel like I am looking back over my own particularly angst-filled journal entries – not a great thing, nostalgic value notwithstanding.
This point is a fitting way to summarize A Long Lifetime of Dying Slowly
. It is full of brooding, haunting moments that remind me of some of the best and most exciting screamo. Simultaneously, it can also be awkward, cloying, and inconsistent; and the production issues do not help matters. A Long Lifetime… offers a trade-off, though, that I am willing to take, much like the one I took when I started listening to the genre: Frequent glimmers of brilliance and deep emotional resonance, occasionally interrupted by instances of self-sabotage. I’ll take it.