Review Summary: "This is your head on a canvas, looking my way"
Cursed - II
The funny thing about Cursed’s sophomore album is that it only got better in retrospect. Granted, at the time of release it was still critically praised, yet after the proverbial ‘bullet to the head’ that ended the band once and for all, a certain level of stardom was placed on Cursed, II
, and all their albums henceforth. Now, years later, it isn’t impossible to say that while all of Cursed’s discography is highly cherished throughout the community, II
stands out from Cursed’s previous and subsequent work. The simple answer as to why this is is that it’s a representation of a band not only finding their potential and running with it, but taking a leap of faith, in terms of progression, that pales in comparison to nearly every other hardcore band out there. The level of maturity that Cursed grew in between their debut to this album is astonishing, in that it took every aspect that made them such a visceral, sonically assaulting band, and streamlined it into a much more cleanly packaged sound, yet not sacrificing any of the raw attitude that their first album had. As a matter of fact, II
could be considered one of the most evil sounding hardcore albums ever tracked out. Whether it could be its heavy, sludge-like atmosphere that constantly permeates into every song, or the emotionally unbalanced, pissed off sound of vocalist Chris Colohan; II
isn’t the sonically dissonant mess that I
was, or the chaotic sound of III
, but a more stream lined record. Yet, because of this aspect, it makes II
all the more better.
All the members of Cursed were no strangers to the hardcore scene. Being in one type of band or another since the early 90s, Cursed featured members of seminal Canadian hardcore bands like The Swarm, Left For Dead, and Haymaker. With that being said, when Cursed was initially put together as one single, cohesive unit, it wasn’t too surprising that their debut album was a bit of a sonic mess. Not inherently flawed by any stretch of the imagination, yet there was a certain level of disorganization that wreaked havoc all throughout the listen; essentially hamstringing the whole listen. II
is the album that refined all those aspects, drew directly from all the experience that the band had, and came out with a product that was the thing of nightmares. Starting off with subtle feedback, it casually invites the listener in like a crypt keeper politely holding the door open for a group of ignorant visitors into his shop of horrors. The thing about II
is that it rarely blows up in your face that all other previous and future material that Cursed created was known for. While tracks like the cyclonic ‘R.I.P’, ‘Old Money’, and ‘Clocked In, Punched Out’ carry all the explosive attitude of a punk band, most of II
is rather sedated. Even during the heaviest moments of ‘Reparations’ to ‘Head of the Baptist’, there’s a certain element of foreboding and terror all throughout the listen.
Yet this could all have achieved by the distinct sound that Cursed has patented. The atmosphere that II
created was an exploration of sludge and darkened hardcore that is relatively unparalleled throughout the scene. Songs like ‘Two’ and ‘Model Home Invasion’ are entirely sedated tracks, even featuring a weathered piano sound in some instances, to clean singing by vocalist Chris Colohan. The guitars on every track are muddled down to a bass heavy frequency that serves to reinforce the already heavy-like atmosphere, yet the drumming is nigh-crystal clear in its delivery. But when added together is amplifies the level of darkness on II
But in the end, II
not only stands as the defining album for Cursed as a band, but the star achievement of the long winded career that each member of the band had previously been a part of. Somehow finding a perfect balance between sonic dissonance and an inviting streamlined sound, II
takes all the subtleties of sludge and marries it with the dark, pissed off aggression of hardcore. While Cursed might be long dead and gone, their legacy is forever intact with their solid discography and II
stands out among them. Even to this day, there has still not been a band that has gotten anywhere near to the nihilistic, evil level that Cursed and II
has dropped to. A looking glass into the imperfections of life, to the true bleakness that humanity is capable of; II
will forever be the album that defines the limits of true horror in music.