Review Summary: flashes of a sketch etching into you
Friolento first came to my attention through my love of Anchoress (the bands share two members), another Vancouver group falling under the post-hardcore umbrella. A comparison of their similarities would point to the smartly embellished mid-tempo drumming, to a knack of making effective use of relatively simple harmonic constructions, and to vivid, grounded explorations of hardship and perseverance. But while the dogged Anchoress remain ultimately optimistic, Friolento explore the throes of death and loss; Destroy All Bad Luck
stares unflinchingly into the dimly lit space it occupies (perhaps the dusty bedroom of “Neon Cross”), even as its mind, battered by harsh light, wanders restlessly. The narrator is buffered by natural forces (wind, sun, dust, a symbolized black bird, death), seemingly trapped in passivity and helplessness.
At a fleeting 21 minutes, Destroy All Bad Luck
can be thought of as running through varying degrees of lucidity; its shortest pieces flow on spoken-word streams of consciousness, such as the slow-walking, muttering-to-self “Exit Guides”, whilst the most traditionally structured tracks are more focused, more measured in their story-telling. Lucidity also seems to be related to how fleshed out a track is instrumentally, ranging from sparse piano to a wash of apocalyptic feedback to full band set-up; one moment the album descends into a daze of noise and feverish utterings, the next clawing its way out into searing brightness (“Hyperborea”) or sombre reminiscence (“Neon Cross”).
It becomes apparent that Destroy All Bad Luck
will not, perhaps cannot, break away from the cloud that entraps it. Dark and light, that classic duality, lose their distinction and meld into a single threat; “Hyperborea”, which alludes to the myth of Icarus, speaks of “seeking darkness, constant light […] / I’m sunbleached, over-exposed, and my hands can’t blot out the sun”. The song, also the most energetic and fast-paced of the album, climbs in altitude and, at its apex, presents a shimmering tremolo riff that quickly tapers off; it mirrors the moment at which Icarus flies too closely to the sun, rebuked by its warmth and light. Indeed, light becomes identified with unwanted, even destructive revelation or realization — “Neon cross, you light my bed and keep me from rest and resolve”. The dark, its indefiniteness and emptiness only small comforts, gives way too easily to encroaching light. Closer “Neon Cross”, profoundly disquieting and bleak, eschews all attempts to break away from the reality of grief — its bassline ridden with jarring intervals, rhythm guitar effectively playing an uncanny transposition of the lead, minimalistic motifs anchored around a broken chord. Sunken as it is into its pain, it maintains an air of dignity and grim resolve.
What’s fascinating about Destroy All Bad Luck
is that it is frequently ambiguous as to whether it is capturing the perspective of a mourner or the soon-to-be-mourned (could it be both?). “Neon Cross” reveals that it may concern metaphorical death (“The kid I was then probably died that night”), though “‘O’” is more clearly about the passing of a loved one; “Ave Negra” and “Hyperborea” could be interpreted as describing either efforts to run away from grief or the contemplations and visions of someone on the brink of death. “Ave Negra” portrays flight and escape as a tempting but deadly offer at which the narrator expresses reluctance; during a pivotal moment, glimmers of hope, represented by brief augmented chords, disappear in a flash as the guitars and drums crash back in full force, pulling everything back to Earth.
Destroy All Bad Luck
devastates through flashes and vignettes that ultimately combine to overtake your whole field of vision. Loss of agency, the inability to escape both light and its absence, having to face both death and the guilt of dying — where will you go next?