Review Summary: Loma Prieta paint a portrait of their present.
Above all else, Loma Prieta’s music has always been honest. While it’s an important foundation for any artist in any genre to build their music on, it’s especially true of emotional hardcore. In Loma Prieta’s particularly potent case, it’s absolutely vital. Their last album I.V.
was an almost cripplingly dense and violent display of emotion, where every ounce of aggression and unease was palpably poured into the standout trilogy and the songs surrounding it. It was a cathartic experience, and it felt as though they had lifted a weight off their shoulders by fully embracing and utilising the pain they had been harbouring inside. With that in mind, there would have been little point in retreading the same ground as I.V.
if the band member’s emotions no longer matched up to the level of anger required to produce such a record. By their own admission, there is more clarity in each member’s life than ever before, and it’s enabled them to expand both musically and thematically. It’s evident from the word go; Self Portrait
is more contemplative and experimental than its predecessor.
With the benefit of hindsight, “Love” wasn’t such a surprising choice to drop on us unsuspecting listeners. It acts as the album’s slow burning opener, and it immediately thrusts us into unknown territory. Unlike past efforts which have almost always developed into full frontal assaults, “Love” takes its time and only gives itself to you piece by piece. The rippling arpeggios are in no hurry to give way to the usual volleys of guitars, and along with the restrained harsh vocals they evolve slowly and methodically instead. The song reaches boiling point as you’d expect but it never fully spills over the rim, instead managing to reign itself back just in time to make way for the next song. It’s a tactic which is used more than ever before in Loma Prieta’s career and despite being a departure from the violence of releases past, you’d be wrong to say that the intensity has disappeared along with it. Both strikingly different and more melodic than anything we’ve heard before, “Roadside Cross” and “More Perfect” follow the lead set by the opener and continue to demonstrate their evolution. On the former, major chords soar out the darkness to catch you off guard on first listen, and reward you more than you’d initially expect on each returning visit. What’s more, the chanting along with the restrained outro on “More Perfect” adds even more variety than we’re used to hearing.
is undeniably a welcome addition to Loma Prieta’s discography, but it doesn’t rank among their finest. It’s difficult to scrutinise and dissect exactly what is missing from the band’s fifth effort, but as is often the case for highly emotive music it comes down to a simple overarching feeling that something is either there or it’s not. That isn’t to say that Self Portrait
is devoid of emotion or isn’t stirring; far from it, it just affects you in fits and starts rather than holistically like on previous records like I.V.
and Last City
. Despite this, Loma Prieta’s latest effort demonstrates both their quality and their almost frightening consistency, and cements them as heavyweights among their peers.