Review Summary: Now introducing the punk version of a text-to-speech program.
Four times in a row, I ordered puzzles off of Amazon only to find that, upon completion, a central piece was missing, occasionally more. Be it a gorgeous, romantic landscape or an elaborate homestead, something was ultimately repulsive about the final product; the beauty was marred due to that hole, which may have been small in the grand scheme of things. Yet my eyes could never divert their attention away from that gaping void as if its mere existence was a personal insult. It’s the same sort of sensation that plagues the triumphant return of screamo veterans Jeromes Dream—not that the band has intentionally launched an offensive remark, but rather an album that becomes one such concept. Much like investigating a fresh package, on paper everything appears to be in order and prepared for assembly, with nothing outwardly awry about the contents. Once analysis is entered into the equation and the individual parts are observed, that pervasive abyss emerges amidst all other elements that had clicked together harmoniously. There are really only two options: a listener may be able to step back, internalize the full picture, and eventually find themselves capable of moving on from or willfully ignoring the flaw’s presence; or one may be unavoidably repelled, unsatisfied at the incomplete nature of the work which had the potential to reach incredible heights. The Connecticut trio have certainly demonstrated their impressive control over the implementation of discord in their music, a quality quickly acknowledged in the group’s chaotic debut from the bygone days of 2000. Nineteen years into the future and the resurrected threesome have managed to somehow augment that wonderfully oppressive atmosphere that suffocates as much as it does captivate—but it comes at a cost.
There is certainly no shortage of praise to be dispensed regarding the modest collective’s aforementioned mastery over darkened tones. In this aspect, the former genre titans continue to teach modern assemblies a lesson: dominant bedlam is welcome in emo music when done purposefully, but it should not sacrifice individual song quality. To thoroughly characterize their numbers, Jeromes Dream employ a mixture of hardcore riffs with the visceral violence of more extreme emo acts, tossing in a healthy dosage of crust-inspired leanings to supply weight to passages. Guitars are heavily laden with immeasurable amounts of dissonance that pile on additional intensity. Working in tandem are the percussion and bass performances, the former shifting from fast-tempo punk rockers to crushing intensity, while the latter’s murky resonance provides an omnipresent bite to each song. When the full force of this concoction of influences is brought to the audience, the impact is immediate in its ability to balance power with distant melodies. Take for instance the quiet, ambient introduction to “Cataracts So Far,” which is abruptly destroyed by an impenetrable wall of harsh, crunching guitar chords and a sinister melody that wails like a warning siren. After sustaining this brutal onslaught, the track’s speed skyrockets as the bass pounds the listener, each note landing harder than a boxer’s calculated punch. Then there is the fascinating ebb-and-flow pace exhibited on “Antietam for Breakfast” wherein a clean guitar line propels a frantic hardcore jam. A surprising moment of calm interrupts the middle portion, delicate strumming supplanting the pandemonium that had established as the norm. Jeromes Dream are just as inclined to shut down this brief interlude by bringing about a bouncing breakdown, the infectious beat causing compulsory moshing to accompany its thunderous call.
Contrastingly to the band’s rampant level of energy, the production throughout the duration of the simply-titled LP
is a rather polished, especially when in comparison to the occasionally indecipherable rage captured by Seeing Means More Than Safety
. Every contributing factor is identifiable in the music produced here without losing sight of the core focus on dissonant instrumentals. If anything, this trade-off—a more refined mix rather than an uncompromisingly muddy one—benefits the set’s direction more due to how it enhances all the details, great and small, that compose each listing on the record. Those aforementioned crust sections convey heightened menace thanks to the extended role of the bass; album opener “Keep Those Bristles Clean and Closed” prominently displays a dirty, fuzzy riff from the distinctive device that perfectly matches the punishing low notes slammed down by the leads. What quickly becomes evident from that same introductory voyage, however, is that not every departure from Seeing…
is a welcome one. This major separation from prior material barges into the proceedings of LP
in the first few seconds of its lifespan, causing such a jarring disparity that it is very difficult to avoid pausing and rewinding to make sure if what was heard was real and not a glitch. The unfortunately confrontational vocals featured in the song and nearly all others manifest themselves as nothing but a dull shouting exercise. Tonal variation is virtually absent; each vocal inflection consistently meanders about a middle-ground volume, the lyrical components delivered unenthusiastically in monotone. Because the production doesn’t play favorites here, there’s no denying the attendance of the ‘singing’ represented on the disc and it demands attention.
The effect this misjudged inclusion has on the overall merit of LP
is palpable; every vocal foray embodies an anchor that chronically drags down the amazing ambiance and intrigue crafted by all other aspects. Such a glaring dismissal of maintaining an unswerving mood kills multiple tracks before they truly evolve into their cacophonous glory—the sludgy strength abound in “With Ash To Drink” fails to hit properly when the vocals try their best to imitate a fast food worker halfheartedly calling out ‘next!’ to a customer. Double that for the subsequent slow-burner “Reverse In A Valley Combine” and its attempt to form an ominous atmosphere through haunting guitar melodies lurking in the background. The second half of the four-minute opus is spared of further suffering, but the insipid shout-talking already did its worst and demolished the foundation. In a truly bizarre move, the vocals are occasionally utilized as a payoff for similar build-ups, namely the instrumental explosion by the colossal closing tune. Following two minutes of restrained thrumming, Jeromes Dream reenter the scene with absolutely devastating authority to rapidly surge tension. Once the instrumental barrage collapses another minute later, the paltry end result is a reading from a bored news announcer, or someone doing a damn good impersonation of one. It can be argued that, given the context of Seeing…
, the vocal trait of Jeromes Dream has never been particularly remarkable and could actually be a source of criticism. Those original screams, while definitely possessing a whiny, hyperbolic character easy to dislike even for genre fans, were appropriate compliments to the equally raw, messy production that defined the cult classic. If nothing else, it cannot be claimed that they were devoid of authentic emotion and passion—a defense that cannot be used for LP
Perhaps I’ve spent too long describing this singular weapon in the arsenal of an obviously competent artist. That being said, it bears repeating exactly how distracting that specific insertion is. Even more important is to state that it is tremendously frustrating to experience a listening session bordering on brilliance, though sadly held back by a crucial mistake. The vocals of LP
are that missing piece to the puzzle, that small part that got lost in the transaction, and now its absenteeism plagues the value of its fellow links. Emphasis points the foreboding setting as the main source of attraction without a doubt, but it is a truly challenging endeavor to try and block out the shouts entirely. A treasure trove of memorable sayings are discovered in the album’s writings; it’s practically a crime that prose ala “Drone Before Parlor Violence” ‘s lines of “To know the end and then again to know the end and when we’re all in touch with all reason / We feed the light until our dead skin blows apart with all (its) frantic glee / In a rowed collage (an) explosion of gore we leave from now” are stated plainly, devoid of emotion. Whether LP
succeeds or not in the ears of a given audience member is therefore grounded in enormously subjective criteria, the diverging paths encompassed by two options: one may indeed find that, upon reflection, the exquisite dissonance is of enough worth to supersede concerns over faults. On the other hand, one might come to view the ‘singing’ as an insurmountable barrier to their total enjoyment of the record, their concluding thoughts musing about what could have been. A different world could have occurred wherein LP
was unleashed on the public as a straightforward instrumental adventure. This is the album that was offered instead, and so long as those tired shouts persist, a hole will forever be occupying a central spot on the music within.