Review Summary: caught between safe and strong, This Gift Is A Curse release a solid sophomore effort that falls just short of excellence
In trying to balance themselves between variety and their comfort zone, Swedish crust/sludge band This Gift Is A Curse’s weakness is revealed almost immediately – their quality as a crust band is eclipsed by their deftness as a sludge band. All Hail The Swinelord
can roughly be divided into two homogeneous sections – their crust focused tracks, and their sludge tracks. The band really shines on the latter tracks, creating dark, captivating metal songs that pull the listener in and strangle them with dense emotion, but when the former style is utilized, the listener is pulled right back into a maelstrom of monotony. The tracklist has an almost deliberate segregation of these two worlds, with its tracks split into four crust songs, three sludge songs, and one unwanted child of a song where the band tried to mix the styles (We Use Your Dead As Vessels
The ideas present oscillate wildly between interesting and safe. The crust tracks sound roughly the same, several minute collections of the band taking absolutely zero risks and doing crust-by-the-numbers. The result is several minutes of adequately-interesting blackened crust, generally serving no purpose other than to sound angry and carry the listener to the more inspired songs. It is not surprising that the band would choose to do this – this has been done many times before on similarly styled albums, but generally in those cases, the faster songs and slower songs maintained more of a balance in quality. This lack of equilibrium in stylistic caliber is what makes these crust songs stand out as inadequate and boring. This is not to say that they are bad, rather their adequacy is magnified into inadequacy by the tracks that surround them.
When the band steps outside of its circumspect crust nature and tries to experiment is where All Hail The Swinelord
really shines. XI For I Am The Fire
, Hanging Feet
and closer Askradare
are all fantastic songs. They provide an excellent, powerful contrast to the strong ire of the compact portions of the album. Taking influences from post rock and noise, they create 3 tracks of sweltering chaos. This creates for a very stark contrast between tones on the album, as although the shorter songs convey almost solely unchecked vitriol, there is a much more robust conveyance of tone on the three post-influenced tracks. Hitting notes of hopelessness, fear and loss, they sound otherworldly, carrying the album to a plane devoid of joy. In forging their intensity combined with genuine emotion across these three tracks, This Gift Is A Curse create some of the strongest metal of the year, but a great album is not made up of a couple of great songs. This extremely disjointed emotional nature gets stronger as the album goes on, and could almost be mistaken for two separate EPs spliced together and then mixed up to sound diverse.
This contrast between effectiveness of styles would be a death knell for weaker bands, but through it all, This Gift Is A Curse show true promise. All Hail The Swinelord
is a great album made up of two very polished, effective styles, one genuinely offering more ideas and inspiration than the other. Despite the shortcomings of cohesiveness, sonically the band sounds enormous – they throw an insane wall of sound at you from the get go, and do not let up for one moment during the album. The vitriol is almost exhausting, but akin to the rewarding exhaustion after exercise. They sound positively nightmarish at times, and hit moments of real, rewarding darkness that other bands strive to achieve on purpose, whereas here it sounds natural. It is a great album, but it is an album that just isn’t quite as great as it could be, which is ultimately bittersweet.