Meth Brings the Pain in Daring Debut

Mother of Red Light is a dark, disorienting experience from an exciting young act.

Meth is a mathcore/noise-rock band from Chicago, Illinois. The six-piece deputed as a three-piece with 2017 with The Children are Watching, an EP which steered headlong into grindcore and black metal without looking back and will flat out blow your skin off in its short runtime. 2018 saw the addition of three new members and a hard turn toward atmosphere and noise rock on the I Love You EP. Now, Meth brings forward their most coherent and ambitious project to date with their debut LP, Mother of Red Light.

From the start of the record, many things become clear, not the least of which that we are in for some fantastic lines from lead guitarist, Zack Farrar! Tracks like the opener, “Failure,” or later cuts like “Inbred,” feature guitar work that is at time melodic and accessible and other times pure chaos. It’s this tonal dexterity which allows the guitar to lead the every instrumental whether through catchy hooks or abrasive swells and everything in between.

When the tone does become abrasive, however, it’s Seb Alvarez’ lead vocals which take a clear front seat. The handful of quieter, poetic moments are nice additions, but the crushing, unbridled screams on songs like “Child of God,” and “Cold Prayers,” drive the band’s full power. The vocals are often layered to fantastic effect with a brutal mixture of growls and screeches backed by the lower, calmer elements.

In addition to the death and black metal influences, this record has a strong math-core element at its core which is felt in the bizarre and unpredictable time changes that characterize even the heaviest moments. “Swallowed Conscience,” and “Her Womb Lays Still,” fall back to back and exemplify this perfectly. From slower passages with complex rhythms to explosive climaxes which layer and alternate time signatures, the entire sound is consistently held together by wonderful drum work from Andrew Smith and an impressive tightness from the rest of the group.

Ultimately, however, Mother of Red Light is set apart from contemporaries by the gloomy, nocturnal atmosphere which hangs over every track. It’s this atmosphere that allows the band to carry longer cuts like the seven minute, “Psalm of Life,” as the constant sense of dread seems to drive even the most minimal moments, and in the monstrous and speedy follow up, “Return Me,” that dread is brought to fruition as the band brings the pain with thrashing guitars brutal screams. The entire record is spent either being knocked out of your chair by hellish climaxes or waiting in anticipation for the next explosive passage.

This all brings us to the 11-minute closer, “The Walls, They Whisper.” This is certainly the most ambitious track on the album as it takes up about a quarter of the runtime and, for the most part, this pays off. The long, dreary poem which opens the song is effective and the anticipation reaches a fever pitch with the droning, clean guitar. When the breakdown finally comes, it’s perfectly doomy and powerful. That being said, this track is a good example of all the issues with this album. The nearly four minute passage of only radio fuzz, while disorienting, loses its effect long before it ends, and when the band finally returns, the momentum is simply dead.

And this is the album’s biggest issue in total. While the atmosphere and progressive elements set the sound apart from nearly everything else in the genre, I’m also left with far too much slack. I wouldn’t want to pull this experimentation out of the project entirely, but reigning it in here and there would allow the record to feel tighter and better paced in a way it desperately needs.

That being said, this is a fantastic debut. Meth is experimenting with one of the darkest, heaviest sounds around and this record leaves me extremely hopeful for future releases. While they do tend to get lost in their own heads a bit, too much risk is always preferable to too little, especially when most of it pans out well.

Mother of Red Light is a dark, disorienting experience from an exciting young act.

7/10

AMAZON LINK: https://amzn.to/2UbiiiB

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Architects and Company Bring Rocking Tour to East Saint Louis

Friday night, Architects brought the massive Holy Hell tour to Pop’s in East Saint Louis for a blaring loud night or rock music.

Architects is a metalcore five piece from Brighten, England. They debuted all the way back in 2006 but with their most recent run of albums beginning with 2014’s Lost Forever/Lost Together, they’ve found increasing international success. Their latest LP, Holy Hell released last year at broke the top 100 on the US Billboard chart and spawned a large scale international tour. Their sound mixes the heavier elements of metalcore with fairly melodic choruses, seamlessly transitioning from thundering breakdowns to singable hooks and back again. Friday night, Architects brought the massive Holy Hell tour to Pop’s in East Saint Louis for a blaring loud night or rock music.

While She Sleeps kicked off the show with quite an impressive half-hour set. The relatively accomplished British metalcore group brought an almost unrelenting heaviness to their entire performance and frontman Lawrence Taylor was able to bring the energy within the venue to a fever pitch. All of this was accomplished, notwithstanding quite a few setbacks. Of course, it’s never easy to be the opening act and the crowd was still filtering in at the beginning of the set and beyond this, they were also confined to only about a third of stage thanks to the gear of the following acts. Regardless, While She Sleeps gave quite a performance and set a very high bar.

Up next came Thy Art is Murder, the Australian deathcore band who were quite a bit heavier than either of the other groups sharing the bill. With this reputation already well known, the group absolutely brought the power from their first track. Lead vocalist, Chris McMahon took the stage in a hooded cloak which, along with his long beard and hair and growling voice made for a horrifying, yet entertaining opening. The tracks, admittedly, bled together a bit, but the crowd was electric by this point and thanks to some incredible rhythms from new drummer Jesse Beahler and some fantastic guitar solos from Andy Marsh. Thy Art is Murder played for about an hour and by the time they closed, my ears were ringing and the crowd was more than ready for the headliner.

Architects took the stage at about half past nine to roaring applause and brought even more energy to the stage. Along with the band came an incredible lighting rig which was perfectly programmed. The strobing flood lights and multitude of colors were genuinely mesmerizing and, though I don’t often comment on lighting all that much as its outside my area of expertise, this rig was one of the best I’ve seen in such a small venue.

On top of the staging, the group was extremely impressive musically. Their choruses were melodic and encouraged quite a bit crowd singalongs, and their breakdowns were absolutely brutal. The mix was quite bass heavy throughout all three sets and along with the lighting, this made for a scene that neared sensory overload quite often. Drummer Dan Searle played explosively on a massive kit and frontman Sam Carter’s ability to switch between clean vocals and barbarous screams helps smooth the transitions between their two sounds.

Above all, the highlight of the night was certainly the crowd. For the final two acts, Pop’s was absolutely packed with raucous fans who formed a downright dangerous pit which never seemed to stop growing. Aside from a few stray fights which broke out in the back, the pit was fairly considerate but massive and quite physical.

As the show wrapped up, Sam Carter took a moment to speak candidly about the importance of mental health and reaching out to a professional when dealing with depression and other issues. It was an impressively genuine moment and when it was followed up by an excellent performance of their hit, “Doomsday,” it made for a perfect finish to a great show.

Overall, this was an extremely enjoyable concert with three impressive acts in a row. While She Sleeps was a pleasant surprise as I hand’t heard a single song before their performance, Thy Art is Murder came incredibly close to stealing the show with a brutal set, and Architects showed once again that they are one of the premier groups in the metalcore genre.

AMAZON LINK: https://amzn.to/2UbiiiB