“Yet a legend of great distances is written on them—a kind of atomic desolation. Each is a human spot of moving rust naked before the desolation of the skies that bend above him, unsheltered on the huge and savage wilderness of the earth, across which he is hurled—a spot of grimy gray and dingy brown, clinging to the brake-rods of a loaded freight.” Thomas Wolfe, The Face of The War
Ambition in the midst of adversity only appears foolish to those who can control whatever mind-body impulse drives their movements off cliffs, those who can shutter all but self-preservation and still brazenly appear to function. The right sort of “mess” within art music remains exclusive for the sake of nothing but the opposite sort, the splayed open fool, a life-preserver void existence avoiding charted and patrolled waters altogether. Humanism no longer aligns with the avant-garde in this sense, at least in terms of rock music and various other forms of pop cultural trash heap, logically dictating a resignation to existential nihilism for the sake of avoiding coyness or too-powerful and inhumane figures. Throwback noise rock no longer satisfies this need for the uncontrollably twitching art-mess of the individual ‘self’ as upgrades to mathematical precision and post-metallic values cleanse retro-futurism of any “wrong” choices, especially those who were light on grit and foul guitar clangor to begin with. Turku, Finland borne quartet Throat spent a good solid decade operating outside of time in their warped vision of early 90’s noise rock eventually steeping their teabags, well, severely plunging them into the cold water of sludge metal dynamism while holding fast to what were essentially noise rock and post-punk extrapolated pieces. Sounding like an entirely new band for the third time in a row, their songcraft now evolves beyond broadly applicable linkages of experimental generational craft into a mess of their own making on ‘Smile Less‘. This third full-length grinds its teeth hard, drugged asleep by the dark impulses of atmospheric sludge metal and post-punk delirium, without losing any muscle memory for stumbling, fucked up anti-rock music as this latest nightmare runs its exhilarating stoned-faced course.
It’d be too dramatic a spin to suggest that Throat have moved on from noise rock on ‘Smile Less’ but there is no denying they’ve found a new version three point zero of their own ideal of what the tag even entails today; Now relying less on an impression of classic production values to convey the value of the songwriting therein, we begin to see the true alien within illuminate er, darken, unto a drastic paradigm shift from throwback killers to modern rock’s greatest hope for self-destruction. The great leap from classicist 90’s harangue on ‘Manhole‘ (2013) to the varied and thrillingly experimental, largely serious voicing on ‘Bareback‘ (2018) now reads as canonical and linear reconfiguration. The entire psyche dies in between these works and this time they’ve awakened coughing on smog and waving their arms until a grand dystopian post-industrial vision reveals itself.
Just as ‘Children of God‘-era Swans had some healthy influence upon major breakthroughs for Neurosis so do each of these acts appear to have seeded the industrial, mecha-noise rock and atmospheric sludge burl of album opener “Conveyor Line”, layering a dual vocal performance less as harmonization but an amplification of each breaking point from the deadpan baritone that now narrates the greater reality of Throat. Cold, dead, deliberate and still serious as the dual vocal enforcement on the intoxicating alt-deathrock dirge of “Grounding” that follows, the shivering guitar hits and distant cymbal rushes that invite the verse changes in to punctuate are all symptoms of a harrowing, yet impressive, development of tonal songwriting far beyond decade or genre worship. There is personal signature across every piece and performance yet none of it feels labored or obsessive in presentation just… Rigid and tense as possible for effect. If this were the entire ‘Smile Less’ experience in a nutshell, I’d have probably mentioned Heads. and Coilguns for the sake of something vaguely similar in mindset and slapped it with a sticker of approval but, Throat have gone the extra mile here to provide an album that exudes mastery rather than experimentation, honing on their best traits and sharpening the taste level with which they present each; Pretentious as that sounds on my part the result achieves a level of craft reserved for ‘modern’ heavy rock’s underappreciated greats such as Årabrot. Ripping through the catchy ass-shake of “Shots”, which seems to have more to do with mass shootings than it does partying hard, after twelve minutes of gripping industrial post-metallic deadpan er, before diving back into it with “Deadpan” offers a rush of extremes feeding into an already wild-swinging listen.
“Deadpan” itself is both a lifeline to post-punk via Helmet-brained 90’s power chord noise rock and a sort of reversion to the simpler rushes of Touch and Go Records royalty applied on ‘Bareback’ — A loud-quiet-loud kind of song that melts in memory thanks to the eight minute industrial piece, “Home is Where Your Hurt Is” that follows. This will be the divisive moment for many folks as Throat‘re channeling late 80’s/early 90’s industrial metal here with chunking guitar intervals and grating swings of an iron gate, consuming static washes and nothing short of apocalyptic noise for an unsettling, surrealistic four minute span before the song kicks in. Here is where Neurosis fans should be salivating a bit, if we can ease on the tribal aspect of songs like “Cleanse” from ‘Enemy of the Sun’ these post-apocalypse attuned visions synch up in exceptional ways, conveying a primal ache that rests unclean upon the listener. No doubt for some the album is more or less interrupted and over but I’d found it as a valuable moment of atmospheric illustration and respite to swallow the dark worldview of the first half and prepare for the final act. “Vanilla Cuts” is contemplative and psychedelic as we return from “Home is Where your Hurt Is”, tragic in its rhythmic motion as we’ve replaced some of this cold post-punk energy with cathartic noise rock syncopation. These sludge rock moments are ultimately going to be the strongest blips on most folks memory, they’re catchy and haunting with cues that’ll excite post-metal and classic atmospheric sludge fans alike without pushing too far beyond Throat‘s noise rock arena. For the final piece, “Hospice”, they’ve tuned a distorted bass to ‘Selfless’-era Godflesh and set the grinder in low, shouting through escalating vocal effects and dropping the deadpan for the sake of an impressive emotional break, shouted and clean sung in pensive release in between long-sustained chord hits and not-so-shrill harmonics. This dissolve into modulated noise unto harsh, tripped and scouring sonic drips may be a fade-out in the most basic sense but the perfect way to signal the right listener for this album. The crossover between classic atmospheric sludge, post-punk and noise rock under a modern retro-futurist lens makes for a record that fans of everything from Amenra to Unsane should be able to appreciate and enjoy.
Throat have hit this one out of the park for my own taste. Gigantic yet custom built production values applied to music that doesn’t waste a second killing time from a band able to connect the finer points of various sub-genre into a record that reads as noise rock nonetheless is nothing short of an accomplishment. Conveying an ‘appropriate’ mood in reaction to our times, showing their work in terms of massive growth between releases, and having the gall to piledrive it into the listener at such a high standard is all a bonus. A very high recommendation.
|RELEASE DATE:||May 14th, 2021|
|BUY & LISTEN:||Bandcamp [All Formats]|
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