On “Deeper,” the mid-album wrecking ball on Transfixiation, the latest effort from A Place To Bury Strangers, lead singer Oliver Ackermann sings, “I gotta get some teeth.” If the music on this album is all bark and no bite, then I’d hate to hear what the bite sounds like. This is deadly, apocalyptic, ominous music. It is grating in a Dirty Beaches kind of way, that is, in a lo-fi, subversive, melodic way. It bludgeons to a pulp in an Iceage kind of way, but it uses shoegaze amp noises instead of vocal groans to achieve its dark, powerful sound. Of course, buried underneath all the noise it is entirely possible that Ackerman sang “I gotta get some tea.” In which case, the incongruity between the music and the lyrics would be hilarious instead of foreboding.
Let’s delve into some tracks. “Supermaster,” the album opener, begins with a darkly subdued eighth note bass line featured prominently over metallic guitar swells. At the end of each verse-chorus sequence the song slows down and sounds as if it’s about to end — like a drunk nodding off only to be snapped back into consciousness by that driving bass. That bass will turn out to be featured heavily throughout the album, crashing and exploding at the end of the end of “Supermaster” and again throughout the entirety of “Deeper.”
This album isn’t all ominous nighttime explosions however. Tracks like “Now It’s Over” and “What We Don’t See” showcase the fact that, beneath all the noise, A Place To Bury Strangers can write nice tunes. Both songs have vaguely 80’s sounding melodies (a little Billy Idol perhaps?) and standard, but well executed structures. Of course, both tracks are also complemented by a good deal of lo-fi noise from the fuzzed out guitars and reverb heavy vocals. The noise doesn’t distract from the songs. Rather, it provides a sense of urgency where there otherwise might not have been one.
The album has its flaws – some tracks go a little long (“Fill The Void”), the noise in conjunction with the portentous bass can be a bit overwhelming and exhausting – but ultimately it proves to be a fine, angry, and most of all, invigorating (albeit, in a violent kind of way) record.
Whether Ackermann needs teeth or tea is up for debate (unless an official lyrics page comes out), but after listening to this album one might fight the nearest person found (in which case, teeth may be needed) or one might collapse in bed from exhaustion (in which case, tea might be needed). Either way, enjoy this album for what it is – well crafted, surprisingly melodic, and brutal.