Review Summary: put down the knife.
Every once in a while, the concept of destiny seems completely real. Not the fairy tale boy-meets-girl destiny bullshit, although some may believe it, that’s not the type of destiny that interests me. I’m talking about the subtle things in life, the things you don’t notice at first. Destiny in the form of the seemingly insignificant, that’s the kind I’m talking about. Maybe destiny isn’t even the right word but it’s happenings like these that capture my attention. The times where you are convinced that things happen for a reason and that you’re meant to be where you are now: a reassurance.
I guess you could say I was “destined” to listen to slow burn
at this time in my life.
I’m not entirely sure I can properly express exactly why I believe the fact that the release of Old Gray’s second studio album is a part of my fate, but one line sticks out in particular that might help illustrate this idea. From the spoken word piece, ‘like blood from a stone’, featured New Hampshire poet, William James, solemnly spews this line: “now you write poems about how to stay alive, you write poems about the places you feel at home rather than the places you wish you could be”
. Just 30 seconds later the band breaks out into a cacophony of noise, swarming the listener with distortion and darkness. Then it ends. Not the album but the mindset--a change in perspective. I was destined to hear that line at this time in my life, and yet it’s just a small gear in the brooding machine of this album.
I was destined to hear those first five tracks alone in my room.
From the poignant, staccato screams and snare hits in the opening track ‘pulpit’, to the desperate yells that begin ‘razor blade’, the opening five songs bite hard and viscously. Lead singer Cameron Boucher showcases his ability to reimagine the genre of skramz and screamo, especially with lead single ‘everything is in your hands’ which contains a dichotomy of screamed vocals and his usual, calmer style of singing. Although a bit strange at first, the coupled vocals surprisingly work mostly due to the mirrored contrast within the abrasive guitar work and the fluttering piano lines that back the first minute of the track. Clocking in at six minutes, the first half of the album speeds by the listener at an alarming rate giving them little time to comprehend what just hit them.
I was destined to message my friend as the album turned a corner, and he was destined to be listening to the exact same thing.
The theme of contrast is stubbornly present on this LP as the second half takes a much needed deep breath allowing for two atmospheric piano interludes and two spoken word pieces. Ignoring the out of place, old-school skramz-inspired track ‘given up to you’, the album ends blissfully. Closer ‘on earth, as it is in heaven’ sees Old Gray revisiting the Daisy-meets-Sunbather instrumentals present throughout the album but without any vocals. The exclusion proves to be a successful one, however, as the track more than holds its own, completing the bi-polar album in a satisfying, climactic manner.
So, was it really destiny or am I just grasping at straws? Was it fate that an album so two-faced reflected the transformation of my own mindset splitting into contradicting binaries? Was it pure coincidence that the lyrical themes of struggle and perseverance perfectly captured my own present battles, both moral and physical? I guess if you want there to be a connection and you try hard enough to make that connection it will happen. I wanted that connection. I needed it. And now here it is.