Review Summary: All about that aesthetic...
Plenty of listeners will be quick to point out the occasional propensity of vocalists to sink an otherwise robust album. Provided an average LP, though, a capable vocalist can do wonders for what ordinarily would become doomed to perpetual obscurity. Mediocre instrumentals, rather passable on their own, may be suddenly elevated when the right performer is behind the mic. In this regard, the debut disc by Sordid Pink, formerly Destiny Potato, is an inquiry into exactly how much
a singer can salvage per their own abilities. The best baseball pitcher in the world can manage to strike out a slew of batters that dare offer a challenge, but there’ll be much frustration come the odd fair ball knocked out into the void—not even Usain Bolt is making that catch happen (unless the Orioles are up). An engaging artist such as Aleksandra Djelmash possesses a similar talent in her commanding high range, which can dominate a tune suited to her skillset. Attempting to cover ground that is either against her strengths or simply lacking in intrigue unfortunately leaves her efforts stranded out on the mound, much like the poor ball player now cursing into an empty outfield. The initial work put forth in Sordid Pink
displays poppy sensibilities inserted into a hard rock or heavy metal framework, meshing together glittering electronics, pulsating bass, and crunching guitars. There are highlights abound in this style, yet the end result ends up feeling lacking. Rather than appearing as a powerful statement of a new direction, Sordid Pink’s newest foray banks heavily into aesthetic and vocals, the ensuing product failing to truly build upon either foundation sufficiently.
The strange aspect about this situation is that, on paper, Sordid Pink have all the pieces necessary to succeed. Key collaborator David Maxim Micic hasn’t gone anywhere; he is still half of the beating heart that was Destiny Potato, supplying the guitar work for the album presented here. However, a stray attendee to the record would be forgiven for forgetting David was a part of the experience at all—the guitars are rarely at the core of the collective’s output. When he does appear, it’s rarely in a manner that exemplifies his expertise, with the standard yield being uninspired riffs or secondhand djent-esque grooves. Nothing special is occurring under the surface of introductory number “Killer,” save for some glitchy electronics and a hefty bass. On certain cuts, “Saw it Coming” being a specific specimen of note, there are barely any guitars to pick up on, whatever additions that are offered being either buried below percussion and piano notes or sandwiched between. The catchy bass lick and crunching riff of “FU” is enough to attract attention alongside the glittering electronic component, so long as Applause of a Distant Crowd
is conveniently forgotten with the first baseman. Even so, what’s brought to the table is far from unique, the performance an echo of artists that have already traveled that route; there’s nothing riveting about repeating motifs that were tired out years prior, especially when no consideration is given to developing them much at all. The primary thrust for most compositions on the disc revolves around the rhythm section’s cooperation with the keys. This approach does hold a modicum of merit—the buzzing bass passage and shimmering synth tonality of “Livin’” pair off beautifully, ramping up excellently into the thunderous refrain—but, as a general rule, the arrangements on Sordid Pink
are stripped back.
Using typical pop structuring and musical theming, the group strives to use twinkling keys and an enormous low end to fuel dancing ventures and dress tracks up in shining colors. Putting this into the harsher format of metal genre idiosyncrasies establishes both a contrast to punctuate the poppy elements and a sturdy support system to buttress the multiple choruses. Such may be the record’s desired aesthetic; however, with the scaling down of instrumentation as aforementioned, the vocal performance is inevitably pushed to the forefront as the forebearer of this concept, as it possesses inadequate memorability to survive on its own. A tall task to be sure, yet Djelmash rises to it in an impressive fashion for the majority of the experience. It may feature a sound that sounds borrowed instead of fresh, but Aleks conquers the roaring chorus and seductive lyricism of “Killer” with ease, maneuvering through the verses with her beguiling delivery. When the refrain does arrive, she stretches her vocal cords to adopt a harsh edge, supplying a menacing bite to the tune. This same charisma is the definite highlight during the duration of “Falling.” Ignoring strange choices in the bridge, Aleks rules over the bombastic climax visited throughout the song. There are certainly faults to encounter; namely, those that emerge during the fun and simultaneously awkward “FU.” Poor lyricism is covered up satisfactorily by a titanic performance by Djelmash, her voice practically screaming out the chorus, but it hits a hurdle during the partly spoken word bridge section that runs straight into a deathcore breakdown. A return to the refrain thankfully spares any further flashbacks to David Draiman shouting that he is a good boy, preventing the song from dropping too low in quality. Aleks is normally able to conceal flaws if not demolish them with her thrilling voice.
No matter the aptitude on display, vocals alone are unable to erase the fundamental issues imbedded into the release. Individual tracks, already dealing with deficiencies in their construction, have a tendency to never really go anywhere
; there is no progression to a notable moment, leaving that unexceptional aesthetic to cement the number’s importance. Inescapably losing in this goal, the task is thrust into the mitt of Djelmash, and there are simply no tricks to pull to save a middling, borderline filler entry like “Freak.” Aleks is at her most successful when given space to liberally extend her singing, especially when concerning her amazing belting and screaming, which transform a song a la “FU” into an anthemic crowd pleaser that forces audiences to headbang compulsively. In the case of “Freak,” no hefty riff is to be found, replaced instead by Maxim Micic’s impression of a sleepwalking guitarist backed by distant electronics. There’s a bridge that serves only to let David churn out a half-baked solo, leading nowhere of interest. Aleks is essentially set up to lose here—a tepid chorus opens zero room for her to flex her range—and the result is a singing performance that is largely forgettable, and an instrumental contribution even more so. The exact same problem crops up in “Saw it Coming”: a boring refrain, a lackluster instrumental portion that banks heavily on aesthetic
, a pointless bridge, and an average output by Djelmash. That being said, even when tracks are more forgiving in their structuring, it’s no guarantee that Aleks can apply the same magic to hoist them up. Songs in the vein of “Our Home” contain nothing that would encourage repeat listens. A dull guitar riff and similarly straightforward piano trudge along, the attempt at an uplifting chorus basic in its formation, restricting the territory Aleks can travel over. These dilemmas, not separate from those already described, come in multitudes; closing tune “Rust” sports standard riffs years past their expiration dates, tacking on a brief heavy portion to artificially insert something
worth discussing. A commendable vocal showcase only manages to soften the blow.
It truly is unfortunate that Sordid Pink
equals a halfhearted stab at tired ideas when it could have amounted to greater acclaim. The guitar work that does crop up, should Maxim Micic have the opportunity to peek a bit around the dugout, is either an imitation of what VOLA have been able to accomplish or a downgrade from the addicting rock music cranked out by The Intersphere. The band placing all their bets on aesthetic to win the day ultimately deals too much damage to the album. Either Aleks Djelmash must operate at a zenith of competence to boost tracks, or the record sabotages itself with unadventurous musicianship. This is not to suggest the group lacks to necessary elements to prosper; there are evidently plenty of positives to discover in what Sordid Pink are endeavoring to create. Its negative traits have been stated, but “FU” is an unabashed romp. Related attractions “Killer” and “Livin’” are pure entertainment, injecting a healthy dose of adrenaline into proceedings, the intended affect of the collective’s newfangled path combining perfectly with Aleks’ assets as vocalist. The universal quandary is that the band aims too low, tempering their potential to exhibit a poppy atmosphere that misses on originality, is devoid of staying power, and has no chance of making a song pleasant on its own if Djelmash cannot recover the effort. All too often, this is exactly what occurs: Aleks stands at attention, ready to throw the next pitch, and finds herself turning around as balls sail over into a vacant stadium. There are limits on what can be done to beautify a record dedicated to being average; Sordid Pink are just too out of sync to rectify errors at this present juncture.