Review Summary: Dear ghost
It’s tempting, after a six year silence, to claim that State Faults have made a furious comeback. This album they’ve returned with is more chaotic and visceral than anything that has come before, and I deemed it ‘angrier’, too. The more time I spend with Clairvoyant
, though, the more I can’t help feeling that’s a lazy conclusion, and one that does a disservice to the band. Singer Jonny Andrew has stated that the binding mantra while making the album was ‘Let Real Love Reign Free’. The lyrics are equal parts starstruck and hellishly earthbound, tactile sensations warring with dire waves of hopelessness and salved with a romantic hope. What the singer, along with drummer Jared Wallace and bassist Michael Weldon, have presented is a tireless document of radical love; after all, what else could bring a band back to each other after a six year hiatus? All of this myth-building to say that, as point blank impactful as Clairvoyant
is, I want to urge the average listener to dig a little deeper. If you want to engage with the album simply as a phenomenal display of ass-kicking ferocity, that’s certainly fair, but you won’t be getting the full experience that is offered here. Clairvoyant
is a multifaceted and remarkably nuanced piece of art, wrestling with themes of love, hate, faith, doubt, misery, ecstasy, and life and death. At times, it really sounds like a torturous journey through some kind of afterlife; at others, it is desperately clinging to the earth, immolating itself as a means of breaking through and fostering a conversation. It becomes increasingly clear that State Faults needed us as much as we needed them, and that we’re all in this together.
The music is guided by this synergy as well, and it makes for a truly special display of songwriting prowess and affecting emotional stakes. I said in my Glassing review that the most exciting experimentation in rock music seems to be taking place in heavier and more extreme styles of music, and Clairvoyant
absolutely confirms this. The album covers so much ground but is never disjointed or distracted, presented with a force of purpose that is stirring and at times downright alarming. There’s no binary here; melody, chaos and beauty are presented as one, going hand in hand to complement and build off of each other. Single ‘Moon Sign Gemini’ might be the best example of this harmonious mindset: lasting less than a minute, the track is absolutely vicious, with pummeling blast beats, hair-raising shrieks and molten peels of guitar dissonance, but it’s shortly resolved into an all-too-brief anthem of triumphant shredding and communal call-and-response vocals, before the whole thing is set ablaze by a blistering breakdown. While this sounds on paper like distinct composite parts separated by individual movements, hearing it is another thing entirely; it’s simply stunning how fluidly these songs play out, like not a single note is out of place and wouldn’t exist without what came previously. Each member gives a stupendous performance of complete abandon, and it makes the album a highlight reel of vital screamo: Jonny Andrew has never sounded better, reaching almost Palumbo levels of maniacally passionate vocals (as well as displaying a newfound skill for calm, hazy clean passages); Jared Wallace is an unrelenting force of nature behind the kit, playing with inhuman speed and precision and giving a performance that is nothing short of the genres best since the legendary The Moon Is A Dead World
; Michael Weldon lays down a thick, menacing bedrock and supplies urgent backing vocals.
As stated before though, it’s the perfectly coordinated synchronicity that makes this album stand out. ‘Olive Tree’ opens with almost two minutes of warmly spiritual atmospherics, wafts of luminous guitar interlocked with a gentle groove of deep bass pedal, until the track descends into complete bedlam, whiplash stop-start riffs and frenzied drums leading the song to an eerie reprise of the opening buffeted by amplifier squall. ‘Baptism’ opens with monolithic bass reverberations, and Weldon carries the song, his playing snaking through the song like a stalking animal, setting the stage for Andrew and Wallace to knock it out with a tremendous balance of fervor and lushness. The true jewel in the album’s crown, however, is the title track. It begins with Andrew setting the mood with ponderously melodic guitar that is haunted by a cluster of disembodied voices, until Weldon bursts in with a wall of sound strum of his bass. Andrew gives it his all in this song, screaming beautiful and passionate lyrics of tumult and perseverance, turning what could be a straightforward banger into a thought provoking meditation on the cleansing rage of destruction and the toll of renewal. The song climaxes with a deluge of ‘epic’ guitar bends and a half-time drumbeat framing Andrew in a state of airless suspension, trying to claw his way out of an existential corner. It’s rightfully the centerpiece of Clairvoyant
, and is perfectly situated as the album’s title: it presents three friends relying on each other to vanquish the ghosts of yesterday and build towards a new future, emerging from the blood and fire of the past unbroken and revitalized.
“Kill the old ways, let the past stay dead
Cleanse hatred, let their tongues run dry
Revival, let the old wounds die