Wicca Phase Springs Eternal
Suffer On


4.8
classic

Review

by Adeel S. STAFF
February 15th, 2019 | 119 replies


Release Date: 2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: CBT à la GBC

For the sake of something resembling professionalism, dear reader – a distant cousin, perhaps, an estranged father – let it be known that an attempt was made: to experience Suffer On as is; to discount the value of interpreting art through the lens of one’s own personal neuroses. It was, however, as the kids do call it, an epic fail. What follows, then, is an account of the album through the lens of a fan who did, quite often, come close to shedding real tears.

***

It’s a peculiar thing, the development of Wicca Phase Springs Eternal. What began as a side-project of sorts, second to the Scranton-based Tigers Jaw, soon became the most recognisable of Adam McIlwee’s creative endeavours. Via Tumblr, the project was dubbed “Wicca Phase Springs Eternal” and, true to its name, offered a bizarre blend of witch house and “emotional trap”, boasting the influence of both hip hop and the occult. As the project grew, however, attracting greater recognition, the name – and indeed, the labels – became less and less descriptive. With the release of debut album Abercrombie & Me and, to an even greater extent, its follow-up, SECRET BOY, McIlwee began to find comfort in the emotional trap side of things, and less so in the experimentation of earlier projects. Within a genre whose disparate iterations continue to invade the farthest corners of the pop realm, Wicca Phase and, in turn, the rest of GBC, had found themselves a bit of a niche. True to his name, Wicca Phase had sprung eternal. Once more, however, with his latest album, McIlwee proves himself distinct amongst a growing list of contemporaries, and unconcerned with the shifting trends of a genre en vogue.

Unlike previous albums, on which McIlwee mixed and matched instrumentals from a handful of trusted producers, Suffer On is an album of original material. Written and composed with sole producer Doves (and with the help of the ever-prolific Will Yip), the album is as accurate a reflection of McIlwee’s song-writing as one could hope. Prior to Suffer On, Wicca Phase had experimented with acoustic work. 2017’s Raw and Declawed, for example, showcased what McIlwee had picked up since his time in Tigers Jaw. Various acoustic shows also demonstrated for fans how songs were framed prior to their “emo-trap” transformation. What Suffer On manages to do, however, is blend the two. ‘I Need Help’, for example, opens with sparse guitarwork resemblant of Mount Eerie’s best – threadbare patchworks, laid one on top of the other – before unfurling itself with gorgeous drum and bass grooves and, without one’s noticing, hi-hat sprinkles inedible from work of this kind. What’s most impressive is just how seamless it all is. In a similar manner, mid-album highlight ‘Crushed’ introduces Charmer-era guitars to a much less lethargic McIlwee. It’s a song stripped of all pretence, on which the brightness of Will Yip’s crisp production makes all the difference. On the other hand, ‘Put Me in Graves’ and closer ‘Suffer On’ – as well as, to a lesser extent, lead single ‘Just One Thing’, which, I’ll admit, deceived me – allow Doves to flirt with the limits of his immaculate skills as producer. ‘Put Me in Graves’ in particular demonstrates his penchant for bombast, albeit within a much tighter frame. (On older Wicca Phase material, a Doves credit often indicated a distorted mess of a song, and, more often than not, an album best.) What sounds like a mechanical choir drones in the background as an ever-shifting hi-hat, sub-bass pattern wails over top, spurring on an otherwise hopeless McIlwee, smoothly transitioning into the synth-heavy balladry of ‘Suffer On’ which, intentionally or otherwise, calls back to the subtle orchestration of opener ‘Together’.

***

What’s most interesting about Wicca Phase Springs Eternal, I think, is the extent to which McIlwee is performing. On the one hand, he’s an artist whose words do, more often than not, cut close to the bone. With Tigers Jaw, he lamented the usual emo fare – scenes, college, relationships – albeit with a darker, more imaginative flare. Wicca Phase, on the other hand, allowed the artist to create music a tad more… guarded. In some sense, the project’s earliest works provided a means for McIlwee to dress up his insecurities within a newfound sense of bravado. In the Doves-produced ‘Castles Eternal’, for example, his verse begins, “hop in the ‘rari black, now, I’m back now…” Later in the same song, he sings, “I need to sort it out / It’s not the fucking plan”. Coupled with immense vocal distortion and a composition whose sole purpose seems to be to confuse the living shit out of its listener, Wicca Phase’s words, in spite of their perversion, hold a considerable amount of weight. Throughout his career, McIlwee’s always found reason, for better or worse, to embellish his words. Better, I’m inclined to argue, but as he’s thrust himself further into the hip-hop scene, something counter-intuitive has occurred: both the songs, and their words, have become stream-lined in a manner that has made them sound, somehow, “truer”. Despite its shift in sound, it’s within this context that Suffer On exists.

It’s difficult, I admit, to talk about the album’s thematic content. In truth, I’ve buried its discussion on purpose. McIlwee himself, on his socials, seemed nervous about its release; and, upon listening to the album, it’s hard not to empathise. To call the project honest would be an understatement. Like I said, McIlwee’s never not had a habit of digging deep. But unlike on previous titles, Suffer On sees Wicca Phase piercing skin and scraping cartilage. A collaboration between McIlwee and producers Doves and Will Yip, the album is as frank a discussion of depression – the spectre! – as one might hope for in modern music. And over the course of its ten tracks, McIlwee delivers cognitive distortion in troves.

I’ll keep discussion bare, lest I spoil its significance. What McIlwee – or, indeed, the speaker – is concerned with throughout Suffer On, though, is what is described on ‘I Wake Up in Pain’: “Depression and passion in phrase”. That is, a conflict: between crippling hurt – the entire album sounds as though it’s being recorded from between the comfort of bedsheets – and a desperate need for it not to interfere with the narrator’s relationship. Descriptions – poignant – are scattered throughout the album – an internal struggle – externalised through song. Where the battle reaches a head, however, is on the aforementioned ‘Put Me in Graves’, the album’s penultimate track, on which the narrator blurts out with tragic excitement: “It’s over now / Emotions still erratic but I’m sober now”. What follows, in step, is that of painful epiphany. On ‘Suffer On’, both title-track and closer, McIlwee sings to his partner, “I can honestly say that you’ll stand next to me”. Within context, it’s powerful: McIlwee – or, indeed, the speaker – spends an entire album lamenting the need in his life – for love, and comfort – to discover those things there all along – and to discover that, in desperation, the problem falls more on him that his surroundings. Despite this, resolution is had. A solution is formed: “Tongue is tied / Lead a different life / Take a different road”.
“Suffer on.”

***

So Suffer On is a difficult album to discuss. It hearkens back to, for example, A Crow Looked at Me or, I suppose, Cudi’s Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven. Albums which, in no pleasant terms, placed within the limelight the brunt of their creators’ own personal tragedies. I don’t think Suffer On holds the same headiness as those albums, per se, though it’s the sort of album that is personal enough to make one feel uncomfortable – about projecting their own experiences onto the works, or, perhaps, in finding something resembling pleasure from them. It’s a Sprained Ankle, and not a Turn Out the Lights – individual, and not communal. Talking about them is, in a sense, unbecoming. A “five-star” review even less so. At the same time, however, it’s inescapable: music, in spite of what it does, is material. All the more so when packaged for consumption. The least one can do, then, is appreciate it for what it is; and what Suffer On is, is a masterpiece of modern music. An album that is as uncomfortable as it is awe-inspiring, for both artist and listener. An album that will resonate however, with whomever, whenever, each time with no less significance.



Recent reviews by this author
Doves (USA) 333Pedro the Lion Phoenix
James Blake Assume FormNedarb Amity
Nicole Dollanganger Heart Shaped Bedamerican poetry club we are beautiful, even when...
user ratings (63)
Chart.
3.4
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
Dewinged
Contributing Reviewer
February 14th 2019


15099 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

The last paragraph is amazing, Blush, pure gold.



You know, I had discarded this one cause of the genre tag when I saw it on the list of releases, and now is back on the check list haha

Digging: Deafkids - Metaprogramao

Slex
February 14th 2019


6248 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

This review is a masterpiece

I'm completely bewildered by how much I love this so far, I have absolutely hated any music remotely like this in the past. Can't put my finger on it

Digging: Shin Guard - 2020

hal1ax
February 14th 2019


13323 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

yea liking this



awesome review dude

Slex
February 14th 2019


6248 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Can't believe how much I love this

Has a raw and genuine feeling of something vital

paullon
February 15th 2019


1 Comments


good

Hawks
February 15th 2019


68364 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

About to jam the shit out of this.

Digging: Akasha - Canticles of the Sepulchral Deity

Hawks
February 15th 2019


68364 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Ok yeah this is amazing.

Dewinged
Contributing Reviewer
February 15th 2019


15099 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

lol that didnt take long to rate

Hawks
February 15th 2019


68364 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Never does. m/

ramon.
Contributing Reviewer
February 15th 2019


2962 Comments


im so fucking confused on so many levels

hardest pos

BlushfulHippocrene
Staff Reviewer
February 15th 2019


2808 Comments

Album Rating: 4.8

Thanks friends! This might be his best, he and Doves work so incredibly well together.

Digging: Angel Du$t - Pretty Buff

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
February 15th 2019


41417 Comments


goddamn amazing review, I will listen to this

verdant
Staff Reviewer
February 15th 2019


2397 Comments


i'm inspired to write but also i never want to write again

bgillesp
February 15th 2019


6724 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

If I did not like his last ep, but love lil peep, will I like this?

BlushfulHippocrene
Staff Reviewer
February 15th 2019


2808 Comments

Album Rating: 4.8

Hard to tell, to be honest, this doesn't sound much like either. It has a couple songs like the catchier moments on Corinthiax, I suppose, but the rest are acoustic songs with electronic elements or all-out electro-pop ballad things. It's a bizarre mix of, like, Lil Peep, Grouper, Tigers Jaw, Mount Eerie and... Nicole Dollanganger? But also sounds nothing like those. Worth a shot, at least.

Thanks Jack, thanks Row. Love you both.

onionbubs
February 15th 2019


11085 Comments


i kinda like that thing where he lil peeps over the instrumentals on tdag i might as well check this

Digging: La Dispute - Panorama

WatchItExplode
February 15th 2019


6444 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I'm really enjoying this. The busy electronic drums sound really nice alongside his deliberate vocals.



I'm recognizing some themes here Blush. I won't deny that there is some personal devastation on display, but not on the level of that other group we share an affinity for.

ButtBoy
February 15th 2019


2294 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

only 3 songs in but this is awesome so far

Minushuman24
February 15th 2019


2136 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

so, say I hate his previous stuff. Is this worth checking out?

ScreamoGaze
February 15th 2019


348 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This sounds more like acoustic Tigers Jaw than his old work, probably his most accessible. I enjoyed it & I think it will be considered a landmark album for him as it branches out of the "emo rap" label which I think is starting to get saturated now



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2017 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy