I won’t even attempt to insult your intelligence by acting like I don’t regularly smash on I Am God Songs
and wish to God they’d learn a bit from that record. Maybe it’s just a sign they got really lucky making that album – given that it was made years before the band were ever signed to a label, and without the pressures that come from being in the limelight – but there’s always been a void found within every one of their projects after I Am God Songs
. Hell, I’m no stranger to proclaim Jeff Ventimiglia’s intense performance as being the crowning genius for that album, but my theory on him being the unspoken ingredient for Black Sheep Wall’s success quickly falls on deaf ears when you sit and listen to their subpar 2013 EP, It Begins Again
; a record that actually brought Jeff back for a tag team with their [then] singer, Trae Malone. The EP is verifiable proof that Black Sheep Wall has never been able to catch up to the buzz which circulated their initial release. However, listening to that EP these days makes me realise I didn’t give the band enough credit back then, and that the classic line-up all played their part in creating the 2008 masterpiece.
Yes, there’s more to Black Sheep Wall’s failures these days than simply living up to their debut album; failures that transcend playing instruments and shouting down the microphone. When I sit back and actually dissect my overall enjoyment from I Am God Songs
, I find it stems from things that aren’t musical at all, but from the band’s ability at tapping into humanities most primitive emotions in a blindingly genuine way. It also helps that it’s perfectly captured by the album’s low-fi production, sloppy instrumentals, visceral vocal work and complete embrace with nihilism. You can feel the animosity towards the world on it and it’s the foundation for the entire record. Maybe it’s something the band have lost during maturity, but to me their raw emotion was a critical standout, making everything else completely secondary to elevate the core themes touched upon.
Which brings me on to the biggest issue with anything post-debut: they’re snapshots of a band that don’t tap into this emotion anymore, feeling like try-hard attempts to sound mean and nasty than actually being so. The irony here is I Am Going To Kill Myself
’s opening track, “The Wailing and the Gnashing and the Teeth”, pissed off its fanbase immensely – branded as a bad attempt at screamo and losing sight of its rooted sensibilities – but to me the track shows more genuine heart and emotion than anything the last half decade of music has provided. It’s a slow-cooking, stripped back piece with a marching drum fill, a bright and bouncy melodic guitar passage layered over dissonant guitar chords, and a rather pained vocal performance that brushes over the adverse effects being in Black Sheep Wall is having on its individuals. I get the criticism with the song, it’s a far cry from the sludgy, downtempo-d simplicity of previous iterations, but it’s the first sign of life found within a band that built its career on visceral emotion. And honestly, the change in style is far more welcoming than anything prior to this. Though you’re waiting 6 and a half minutes for the impending crescendo, it’s a worthy wait and actually shows a breadth of promise for the rest of the record… That was until I got a glance at the length of this thing.
Even with my glowing praises for the debut, Black Sheep Wall’s strengths do not reside in their 12-minute meditative tracks. Which means I’m somewhat perplexed by the decision to make a 4-track album that clocks in at a whopping 1 hour and 3 minutes – their longest record to date. The most worrying of indicators is that “The Wailing and the Gnashing and the Teeth” manages to be the shortest track here and just in so scrapes by with its emotional character carrying the piece. The rest of the album cannot affirm such things and eventually reveals its impediments from flow and energy when you hear the cumbersome baggage pertained within every single track. The doom-dirge template of “Tetsuo: The Dead Man”’s familiar rhythms and haunting guitar leads quickly grate after a few minutes, not to mention the fact these monotonous and barren vocals lack the staying power to even justify a run time of 5 minutes of length, let alone nearly 10 minutes. It’s a problem that derails the entire experience; a lethargic blackout that will have you drifting into the abyss from its lack of cohesion. It’s like the band were that pissed off with still making music, they decided to troll their entire fanbase with the outright joke that is “Metallica”; a 33 minute snoozefest filled to the brim with spacious root notes and repetitive structures that make the listen even more somniferous and unbearable than the rest of the album.
To sum up, with the exception of the opening track which shows a quaint facet of the band, this stands as the final nail in the coffin. Lazy, almost non-existent, songwriting that drones on for an eternity, a flaccid and brittle production that fails to support these questionable numbers, and a singer devoid of any magnetism required to keep the listener’s interest, this third album is an outright failure on almost every level. If you’ve never heard Black Sheep Wall before, just listen to I Am God Songs
and avoid this at all costs.
PACKAGING: Standard jewel case.
SPECIAL EDITION: N/A
ALBUM STREAM//PURCHASE: https://blacksheepwallband.bandcamp.com/