WAILIN STORMS – The Silver Snake Unfolds (2022)REVIEW

An oil lamp presented as a mock molotov-ready vessel for night-lit souls, moody and dark thinkin’ folks feeling the barometric pressure rise with the heat of every new obsessive notion entering their sleep-deprived minds. — The heady dramatism of Durham, North Carolina-based quartet Wailin Storms returns after just a couple of years, still very much mulling away in form of a foreboding, slow-flung “southern gothic” brood feeling the taxation of a world gone grey, landing upon trying times at every turn. ‘The Silver Snake Unfolds‘ presents the exciting prospect of their dioramic storytelling through the bared chest and ribcage, a set of well-contained personal narratives pertaining to the experiences of a distended psyche all too prone to relieve itself via confessional outpouring. It sits upon the crown of the skull as a weight itching to be lifted, rattling under a variety of hot-kicking rhythms, crooned and howled melodramatic release and even more black cloud thickened psychedelia. It is a glorious decompression of the self to behold and a very fine, uncategorical heavy rock experience.

If you’re interested in a somewhat general scrub through Wailin Storms‘ discography my review of ‘Rattle‘ (2020) from a couple of years ago more-or-less covers the path taken toward that album’s foreboding realm of similarly satisfying release, an inarguable breakthrough moment for the band’s identity per style and songcraft. It was an easy choice to include among the best records of that year and a vital step taken in communicating the sometimes difficult to pinpoint, eclectic stylistic reach of the band which sources its mood from modern atmospheric rock climes, noise rock/post-punk rhythmic play, horror punk’s glowering register, and blues-ridden psychedelia-wafted heavy rock nodes. If you can read between the lines the result is what we’d likely have considered “alternative rock” back in the early 90’s but not in the post-grunge sense, moreso along the lines of Nick Cave‘s darker side, peak Touch and Go rhythmic torsion/catharsis and Samhain-adjacent gloom rock. These traits become even more their own glom of personae and performance on ‘The Silver Snake Unfolds‘, a more detail-oriented and divulgent older sibling to ‘Rattle‘ which manages admirable parity in value while pushing that sound on down the road a ways.

Lead single “Broken Into Three” already told you all of this in preview, as it took us to a place of random fellowship and romance off the steaming sidewalks of a northeastern late summer night by way of a surf-reverb drenched guitar staggered push and the sort of constantly churning rhythms the band have lifted and accentuated from the best parts of ‘Rattle‘. Whereas that previous album set a crisp, typically dark scene and found its chorus before generally riding that high through each song these songs reach for nuance, abstraction and more elaborate rhythmic constructs for the sake of conveying wordier, more personal prose. With that single in direct pairing with album opener “In the Heart of the SeaWailin Storms have defined the expected experience available to the full listen, nearly morbid tonality applied to anxious and excitable noise rock readiness, each finding the indomitable howl of vocalist/guitarist Justin Storms at the ready for big choruses that thunder in considerable parity with the effects slobbering guitar tones, which are somehow even more saturated with fuzzy gush than before. There is certainly more to this record and it will go places beyond these balmy-skied cathartic gymnastics but the first impression is everything here as we’re meant to bask in the black light of their introductory mood.

Wide-eyed and wearing an expensive cape. — Everything comes to an iron-gated, mist bogged and half-shut eyed haunt as “Sunday Morning Ceremony” rolls into earshot as the peaking scene set amongst the lot, a reprisal of the sleepier energy that ‘Rattle‘ wrought expanded into a sort of psychedelic heavy blues rock ritualer. The hanging dread of it all naturally leads us right into the quieted gloom of “Drag”, another song where the lead guitar performances lend just as much capital toward emotive resonance as the vocals, this time singing the blues in a funereal kinda way. Though I could go into more detail and prattle on here, the major takeaway to start is that Side A is packed with Wailin Storms‘ best ideas, their strongest pieces yet, and in a way this leaves the second half of the album with unreal expectations built in and no clear direction going forward.

Side B is drugged, disorderly and frothing with a tangled interruptive post-hardcore buzz as “Who Took Our Drugs” soars in. This’d read as a point of mental disarray whenever I’d avoided the lyric sheet and focused on the distraught, hymnal wrenching of this piece which offers some of the noise rock-adjacent forms I’d suggested prior, if they weren’t obviate elsewhere. At this point the arrangements don’t become any more or less complex than those on Side A but each song tasks itself with matching memorable rhythm with vocal hooks, something which will please their noise rock interested contingency more than normative folks looking for a novel heavy rock group. For my own taste this is the perfect extraction/continuation of their previous work as the last two pieces (especially “Carolina Moon”) create a very real peak in the atmospheric boon that ‘The Silver Snake Unfolds‘ leads with but, I could see how the hypnotic storyteller vibe could prove taxing to the normative sort of weird rock dabbler as the full listen slinks on, punching mailboxes along the way.

There are two major modes which we find developing in Wailin Storms‘ repertoire, or, at least two which stand out in mind at various points of reflection. The surrealistic gothic trance in the moonlight which rides the weirding, humming groove of their sound in sparse, bluesy narrative and the wordier and punchier side which relies on clamorous intensity to sell its peaking stage-worthy moments. Though I’d felt this record was balanced towards the latter spectrum on the whole ‘The Silver Snake Unfolds‘ benefits from marked contrast to ‘Rattle,’ which’d been heavier on the former mode. Some of the songs could breathe a bit more, others could incorporate a broader variety of tones, effects and instrumental textures to separate scene from cinema more often, but overall these folks have intensified what was already impossibly intense and held me in glorious captivity once again with their intoxicating wiles. A very high recommendation.

High recommendation. (85/100)

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.
TITLE:The Silver Snake Unfolds
LABEL(S):Gilead Media
RELEASE DATE:July 22nd, 2022

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