Not trying to come across as philosophical, but this release is so unlike most other Deathwish releases (for example lately Process Black or Frail Body) that it’s already more hitting than all the other releases.
“Circles of Hell” greets you with an intro that might also be the start of a new Weakerthans record, or the beginning to a good song by some Britpop-sensation back in the late 90s, like Spiritualized or Slow Crush, to drop a more recent name. Another name that might come to mind is Radiohead on their first two records still using some harsher guitar riffs and yet blending those with beautiful pop melodies. “I could give you my heart / what would you say, dear? / I could open my arms / I could just lay here” - pure blessed melancholy accompanied by simple guitar lines opens the record and you feel like meeting an old friend at your high school reunion. And then, after 46 seconds, the first noise part steps in and you are totally drawn in reminiscing of Radiohead, Sonic Youth, Pumpkins and other greats of the early 90s when Greet Death probably would have hit MTV’s Alternative Nation hard. The band is able to shower us with melody and noise, with bliss and pop, with melancholy and sweetness – not only in one song but in each single note.
They also transport that 90s teenage angst thing, the insecurity of youth, the self-righteousness of being young and misunderstood, of wanting to fit in with a non-conformist movement – just listen to the wonderful lines “I hate my friends / Cause they don’t hate themselves / And they shut me up / I want to be like them / I don’t want to talk / I want to think about my days/ ‘till I waste them all”.
And here is the one single thing you might want to complain about – the content of the record. It is a concept album about a couple splitting up, being unable to stay together. The story is told from one of separated and that person is definitely having a very bad time coping with it and drifts off completely into suicidal ideas. Now, a lot of bands talk about death and suicide, but hardly any talks about in such a way, where the “normality” of such thoughts is really hard and where the brilliant noise-rock-pop music might be called a glorification of these tendencies. You should not listen to this record being in a depressed mood, it might not be good for you.
Nonetheless, from an artistic point of view, it is nearly unbelievable how impressive this album is. One really has to listen hard to hear that this band is not from the UK, but from Flint, Michigan, that they are not teenagers themselves but twens. And that this is not a wonderfully encapsulated record from the 90s blown through a wormhole into the present and now unloading all its blissful queerness onto the ears of nowadays’ audience. The youth should listen, and everyone else, too!