Review Summary: Breaking out of the mold, but still a bit stuck in it too.
Catharsis is a vital component of the volatile concoction that is a human being. Without the ability to heal ourselves, our race would likely fall apart in depression-induced self-destruction. Thus, homo-sapiens consistently seek out escape from the prison that daily life can become. The catch, though, lies in the prescription we dole to ourselves to mend; healing is no good if our self-medication is, in actuality, bleeding us further. As hard rock group Palisades would put it, “if you try to clean with kerosene, you’ll burn it away”.
Erase The Pain
is a project designed for recuperation, shelter, and determination against the cobwebs of our days. It’s a strong, highly effective dose of aural pharmaceuticals. The production is clear, rich, and complementary to each and every musician featured throughout the journey, a journey which shifts through different stages of despair and grief while trying to hold onto the light and emerge at the end of the tunnel. But the production isn’t the only ingredient that aides this ride; some of the hardest hitting guitar and vocal work of the genre are both significant chemicals in the Palisades pill. The vocals are versatile and impactful; alternating between mid and high-range croons to raw, power-packed screams and growls, depending on the needs of the respective tune. The guitars are crafted similarly; both the lead and the rhythm tracks interlock and/or duel proficiently, either through gut-busting riffs and power chords or more pensive, deliberate clean picking. Largely, the bass helps to thicken the six-strings up, but arguably, this isn’t to the record’s detriment. The guitar-work is stellar in its tone, and the thickness and unavoidability to it are, at least partially, due to the bass guitar. Drums take a bit longer to set in, but once they do, one realizes the elasticity of them; they groove, they thrash, they calm, they truly cover the sonic spectrum.
Palisades have never been a group to shy away from experimentation, and the results are no different here. R&B and hip-hop are largely borrowed from, but there’s electronica, pop, and dance tendencies as well. Further, some of these integrations are bit subtler and won't be caught on first listen, making this the perfect headphone album. There are tasteful bits of ear candy scattered throughout and finding these Easter eggs is quite pleasurable and encourages repeated listens. But the experimentation isn’t just in integrating sonically foreign elements into the tried-and-true schematic; it’s in the song structures themselves too. The guys largely operate with a typical verse-chorus-verse template, but they operate skillfully. There are unexpected song breaks, jump scare screams and guitar riffs, and beautiful, reflective rests. It’s more comfortable than something like Dream Theater, yes, but it has more tricks up its sleeve than many would initially give it credit for.
No, the script of this drug isn’t exactly Shakespearian, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s brutally honest, exceedingly relatable, and well-written. Tasteful song placement allows the album to flow as a dynamic story, packing both highs and lows throughout. Topics range from battling negative pressure to the brokenness of addiction, to dependence, and to self-improvement. These topics align beautifully with the music enveloping them and promise to be the ideal cocktail for the suffering soul.
There are still some side effects to the record, though minimal. Some of these songs pack potential but end a bit too quickly to really develop on it. Track “Ways To Disappear” is awkward on its first few listens; it starts with a moody R&B verse, then awkwardly flips to a guitar-driven rock chorus that throws the listener for a loop. The track can be a grower, yes, but it can also remain as a disorienting, mid-album annoyance.
Erase The Pain
is not only one of the better heavy albums of 2018 but one of the more competent albums in the scene. It isn’t perfect, but it’s smart and inventive, presenting clever and empathetic lyrics, tight musicianship, and out-of-the-box writing. The result? The album doesn't burn one away; one doesn't feel as if they've wasted one’s time after listening. If you yourself are a kindred suffering spirit, or if you have even a minor appreciation for modern heavy music, Palisades have designed the drug for you.