Review Summary: Less is more?
The 2022 debut LP Return
by British collective deathcrash proved to be a flashpoint, attracting plenty of rave reviews among on the online music critic contingent, but also drawing widespread disdain on your very own Sputnikmusic.com (just check the not one, but two
excoriating reviews). For myself, though Return
was pretty great. While I can freely acknowledge the commonly-cited flaws of the album - among them a much too long runtime, an excessive reliance on the sound of various ‘90s slowcore progenitors, and an occasional tendency to long songs which don’t go much of anywhere - Return
is still the sound of a band with abundant talent finding their sea legs.
Now, only a year later, deathcrash are back with Less
. The title is appropriate, given the band seems to have taken criticism of the debut’s length to heart and released a follow-up which is scarcely more than half as long. The result is seven new songs (albeit many rather expansive) which represent a new exploration of the band’s chosen palette. Overall, I’d argue that this new release showcases some degree of progression and a more consistent level of quality, but is also unlikely to convince most of the band’s critics.
I’d summarize the style of Less
by suggesting that deathcrash are exploring their sound here primarily on a dichotomy: most of the tunes here align with the most gentle and sparse material on Return
, but these songs are supplemented by moments which are as aggressive and heavy as anything which the listener might hear on the group’s previous album. Both sides of the work are well-executed, but whether they tie in to each other successfully is an open question (My take: not entirely, outside of each generally supplying a pervasive sense of ‘90s-ness to the whole thing). Opener “Pirouette” and album centerpiece “And Now I Am Lit” represent deathcrash at their softest, all moody melancholia which I find quite beautiful, albeit probably a tad boring to many. Meanwhile, “Empty Heavy” is loud, snarling, and in-your-face, while sludgy riffage adds much to sprawling closer “Dead, Crashed”.
While the bulk of the evidence makes Less
a superior album to Return
, overall it is a marginal improvement which finds deathcrash in familiar territory. They remain a band to enthrall those looking for bleak atmospherics who don’t mind obvious similarities to the slowcore legends of yore, but also one yet to create their true masterpiece and prone to derision by those who see them as unable to rise above imitation of their influences. So yeah, the ambivalent final line: Less
is pretty great, but if you suspect you’re in the latter camp, listen at your peril.