Review Summary: Stockholm Syndrome - The Album.
Atmosphere. Dense, oppressive, overwhelming atmosphere. That is the first thing that assaults a listener upon pressing 'Play' on 203 Barriers
, the breakthrough album for French post-metallers Kill the Thrill. And while at first the mournful, Goth-influenced clean vocals somewhat offset the claustrophobic effect of the impossibly downtuned bass guitar, this pattern lasts just long enough to draw the listener into a false sense of security; after about a minute or so, the grave lament shifts into an unearhtly rasp, and the whole album comes crashing down on the unsuspecting listener again.
From that point on, there is very little respite to be found across the remaining 53 minutes. Sure, there is a clean acoustic passage here (Western
) and a melodic lead there (on closer and standout Antique Tools
) but by and large, 203 Barriers
is the sonic equivalent of being locked in a cramped room on an unusually hot day; there may be momentary solace to be found in some shady spot or another, but that does not make the overall experience any less harrowing. Likewise with this album. The aforementioned moments do help make the veil of oppressive, murky despair slightly more bearable, but make no mistake – Kill the Thrill are not interested in being friendly. There are no catchy choruses here, no accessible song structures, no three-minute ready-made radio singles. In fact, there is almost nothing at all for a listener to hold onto – nothing, that is, but the relentlessly heavy atmosphere. This album is unpleasant by design
– and in that regard, it succeeds with flying colours. By the end of the 53-minute run time, the listener's ears are buzzing, a migraine is developing, and along with it, a strong urge to play something – anything
– light and breezy and fun.
And yet, by the time these feelings have subsided, he or she will be perfectly willing, even eager
, to give the album another spin – despite
knowing what the side effects will be. That, in itself, is a sign that the appropriately-named Nicholas Dick and his sidekicks have accomplished their objective. Musical masochists will no doubt squirm with pleasure from the Stockholm-Syndrome-inducing thrashing, but for regular listeners, the relentlessly dirgey and negative atmosphere just might Kill the Thrill of listening to this record.