Bummin’ you out since ’98
Dabbling in death, doom and dissonance, Kansas City alt-metal outfit, The Casket Lottery, released their fifth full-length, Short Songs for End Times, a few days ago. As a comeback after an eight-year hiatus, it’s relatively terse, clocking in at 38 minutes, but, the title belies itself, as most songs are not that short.
Setting the aperture on the cover artwork, it shows a figure walking through a cloud-tunnel towards a light emanating out of the end in a black-and-white sky. As time dwindles and the end approaches, it’s their onus to send their message out before the mushroom cloud consumes all.
The first track wastes no such time. Lead singer, Nathan Ellis, belts out a couple lines then pauses for the crackling guitars’ affirmative response in “You Are A Knife.” He’s using his remaining time to rectify all those loose ends. “That’s what you get!” Ellis squalls to the victim of some revenge machination, all atop emphatic muted guitar strums.
Justice now dealt, it shifts to the hopelessness of the world. He perceives “no common ground” in “Big Heart Closed Mind,” shaking his head at the truth that “you just can’t be right all the time,” perhaps also alluding to the riven US. He fatalistically accepts this truth in the more self-possessed track “Sisyphus Blues” as the proverbial boulder as the track centers upon harmonic litanies that glide into stern power chord vagaries. Realizing that there are “no resolutions, nothing to gain,” “Born Lonely” sinks deeper into the despair created in the previous tracks and adopts pessimism in the querulously-sang lines “there won’t be a happy ending, I was never good at pretending” all accompanied by a rapid, nasally guitar.
The prospect doesn’t get any better as it progresses. “Everything Is Broken” apostrophizes a John Doe as “so near-sighted, with such a narrow view,” likely hinting at contemporary politics or some irreconcilable chauvinist within contemporary politics. At this point, the protagonist has become the embodiment of disenchantment and the presentiment that a doomed end is nigh becomes ever more real to him.
Ellis then sums it up, advising the auditor to try on apathy, see if it fits. It’s a one-size-fits-all type of garment. But remember, time is running out, so “hurry up and feel nothing,” he urges in “Feel Nothing.” Although it’s probably just a derisive sally at the audience, being benighted means not having to feel all those nastier emotions but also at the price of the ones that make life worthwhile. Choose the blue pill.
According to their official Facebook page, the “About” subsection reads “bummin’ you out since ’98,” but the page’s banner photo shows all the members of the band sporting some mostly affable visages. The Casket Lottery are not at all like the persona concocted in their songs. Reading their one-lined manifesto and phalanx of faces confirms their tongue-in-cheek styled act. They’re not bummed out, but they do get a kick out of bumming you out.
By the granular instrumentation coupled with the bleak and anodyne lyrics, Short Songs for End Times certainly leaves people feeling bummed out and without even the chance to grieve it before the boom.