Review: Wrekmeister Harmonies “We Love to Look at the Carnage” [Thrill Jockey Records]

Review: Wrekmeister Harmonies “We Love to Look at the Carnage” [Thrill Jockey Records]

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Score 92%
Summary
92 %
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An album that takes you on a journey is an album worth appreciating, and Wrekmeister Harmonies’ latest full length is no exception. It’s a bizarre journey at that as well, not spanning large and great landscapes or dimensions, but instead projecting the struggle of consciousness from midnight to the early morning. If you can’t understand what that means musically, I don’t blame you, as this is an album that needs to be seen to be believed, but I’ll do my best to put into words the vibrant atmosphere the album lulls and shoves you into.

The best word I can think of to describe the album is: enigmatic. It presents you with a variety of seemingly mellow harmonies and passages only to have the crashing tides of the droning guitars drown you with how sudden they appear and envelop you in a sense of unease. This album is riddled with subtle anxiety, and songs like Still Life with Prick Cancer are brimming with tension. A lot of these challenging emotions are thanks to Robinson’s vocal performance. His presence is truly intimidating, silently seething with a stoic form of strength, he never raises his voice save for maybe the last track Immolations, in which his voice is totally cynical with an uproarious sense of pain behind it. With how his voice is so low, paired with the lack of dynamic vocal changes, you’re left in raw shock at how emotional he can get during the more intense compositions that incorporate the guitar and violin or during the quiet moments composed of ambiance and percussion. His performance is matched by the content of his lyrics and his method of delivery. While no printed lyrics are available (as of me writing this) his enunciations are clear enough so that you can get most of the picture. From what I could discern, it’s a struggle of loneliness and an internal monologue during the time of night when you’re least likely to interact with anyone. And much like a poet, Robinson reads these lyrics and rhymes them with a soothing level of tact.

From the first track to the last, you feel like you’ve been dragged through the darkest hours of the night, with which the album cleverly names its first track. With the first track starting off with the ethereal serenades of Shaw, dreamlike electronics of Stewart, and soft cymbals of Harris, then erupting into a full blown panic attack of violin, guitar and the other instruments all accompanied by Robinson’s immaculate voice, you’re thrown into bewilderment as the night creeps alongside you at an agonizing crawl. It’s a perfect metaphor for the average person silently dreaming with only the midnight ambiance accompanying their corporeal body, only to be thrust into reality with an alarming jump in the senses. The album perfectly accompanies the rest of the post-slumber emotions, the second track capturing the sluggish realization of awakening to a more grounded ambiance ala dog barking or a passing train, the third track sprinkling drowsiness into your soul as you exist between consciousness and un, the fourth track a feverish race to accomplish something during this time, and the last track, signifying the immolating ray of the sunrise, taunting your wake and suggesting your hope is now truly gone. This may to some appear as a negative, as the only way to listen to this album is in its entirety. There’s not much room to hit shuffle on this album with its 5 tracks leading into each other most of the time, and the fact that this album mostly works as a conceptual one telling a story. But if you’re willing to give the album its 40 minutes, it’s a story worth listening to indeed.

As I mentioned, everyone on this album is giving their all to create a musical and metaphorical experience. Shaw is used sparingly but when she sings, it’s an angelic performance to provide a feeling of safety and security, contrasting beautifully with the chaos to follow her, almost like a forewarning. Her part on the violin and keyboards are also greatly appreciated, adding a cinematic element to the album. Harris’ percussion is probably the most underwhelming facet of the album as not much is going on with it, but does a fine enough job adding another layer to the music with his cymbals and other percussive instruments. Stewart’s electronics are on another level, ranging from the blaring horn of a train, to the distant wail of a passing vehicle, to a ghostly humming that all top off the atmosphere perfectly wherever they are. The droning guitars do a fantastic job at capturing the insomnia of the album and brim with anguish. Everything and everyone on this album sound great and there isn’t a spec wrong with how it’s all mixed together to create a truly unique time.

We Love to Look At The Carnage is something else and a force to be reckoned with. Its emotional intensity and genius way of tying music and a story together are a testament to the skills and talents of those who worked on this album. It might not impress you at first, and some sections can be a bit drier than others, but after multiple spins, I was heavily satisfied by this album and never tired of it. Truly A+ work here, a definite recommendation for metal and non-metal fans alike.

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