“Another day, another Doug.” Everything goes around so much in circles I’m left quoting a Marvel comic book character. That’s just how everyone is feeling I’m sure. We’re left in a limbo of sorts, some of us more than others. As the pandemic reaches massive statures in Arizona – where I’ve called home for the better part of a decade – there’s no hope of slowdown. I have to question the logic that some have out here, believing they won’t be affected but then suddenly, testing positive and becoming very ill. I’ve even heard some blame it on the “protesters,” even though they weren’t out protesting instead, going out and about without following protocols. It sometimes boggles the mind. But should we deal with the things and minds that we can’t change? Eh, maybe that’s better suited for people smarter than I am.
More Therapy, Music, Chaos
Throughout the years I’ve listened to a number of “noise” bands that have inventively incorporated melody into their cacophony of sounds, and it’s been glorious. Band after band from the late 1900’s – as my offspring like to refer to it as – and even throughout the turn of the century. Even today bands have been unrelenting and figure out new ways to surprise me.
Melbourne, Australia’s Divide and Dissolve is a duo I never expected. With 2018’s Abomination (DERO Arcade), the duo astounded with its heavy dissonance and thunderous racket. Rarely do I sit back review a single but the new Document Series 7” (Saddle Creek) shouldn’t be ignored. The band exploits the same formula its worked with in the past but they’re able to do what many are unable; that’s to allow the framework to stand alone without vocals. Solely guitars and drums, moving at a slower pace that would have King Buzzo gleaming with joy. This is what “TFW” is and it’s just fucking brilliant. And we get more brilliance with “8VA” as well. What else could we all possibly need or want?
Now I’m as nostalgic as the next person but I know many don’t want to fall victim to unnecessarily categorized as “retro,” and listeners may not take kindly to the heartstring longings of days past. Or I could be wrong. In any case, I usually want others to make up their own minds and simply take my words for what they are; one person’s opinion.
I’d like to think the Kestrels have just been a well-kept secret because listening to Dream Or Don’t Dream (Darla Records), this is my introduction to the band although they’re on a fourth album as they’ve bene churning out music since 2011. The band hails from Halifax so it may come as no surprise, although the Nova Scotian city has been known to be a hotbed for good music.
Listening to Dream…, the trio’s sound allows listeners to reminisce from the get-go and the band is pretty clear and upfront about it as well. The band pulls from a number of 90s (re)sources, mixing a hodgepodge of styles from shoegaze, noisy & guttural guitar rock, as well as dreamy cinematic imagery. The band moves at a frantic pace with the opening “Vanishing Point,” piecing quick stop/starts along the way. Some may find Chad Peck’s higher vocal delivery out of place but it all makes sense within the context of the harmonies. But the band is loud and aggressive here, hitting all the right notes as an ode to the past. With “Grey and Blue (feat. J Mascis)” the track moves in obvious directions with, well, Dinosaur Jr.-like intensity. Of course it does. The track can easily shift with Mascis lyrics to make it his own. It’s eerie but expected. Not a bad song at all, which includes that iconic Mascis guitar lead. Did I say iconic? Of course I did.
The group shifts things a bit with “A Way Out,” with a wash of guitars that may owe a bit to Adam Franklin and friends. Does it matter? Not at all because it’s a beautiful song as the wash gives way to a quieter guitar display to allow the song to move in its own specific way, allowing the dynamic changes for more of the same wall of guitars washing through. Ok, this song alone is worth the price of admission into the album. And then we move again into a different direction with a sound reminiscent of Neil Young channeling the ghost of Mascis (yes, I know he’s alive and well.) The song remains definitively “Kestrels,” keeping its identity while rocking with an obscene amount of power(!)
Initially, I believe there was an idea to just write the band off as a throwback but the Kestrels redeems itself from beginning to end with Dream Or Don’t Dream, and that’s just after a second listen. I’m sure, like myself, you’ll be left with no doubts that Kestrels are probably some of the nicest folk you’ll ever meet and at the same time noted as beasts on their respective instruments.
When the Goth genre first appeared, ascending out of 70s-era English punk, it was unique, dark, edgy, and meant to shock with dark imagery within its music. Siouxie Sioux once made mention on the influence Bowie’s Ziggy persona had on her before he shifted to wearing suits for a more mainstream. But I digress.
Executioner’s Mask is the latest outfit to pick up the gauntlet set by their predecessors. The cross-country outfit delivers a guttural guitar-oriented rock on the full-length debut Despair Anthems (Profound Lore), and a title couldn’t be more apropos. The album is filled with songs that are a bit of a throwback, heavy on the synth display, edgy guitars with a dark timbre – much like Simon Hinkler delivered in the 90s – and singer Jay Gambit’s monotone delivery that harks back to Andrew Eldritch’s heyday.
Musically, the album isn’t bad but sorting through old albums handed down to me from a generation past, we’ve heard it before from groups like The Sisters Of Mercy and to a lesser extent, The Fields Of The Nephilim and an assortment of other English outfits. I’m not sure of the band’s long-term appeal but the group does deliver some good songs here like the driving “Hatred of Self” with dual guitars, a steady rhythm, and Gambit’s delivery fitting perfectly within. His vocals are oddly juxtaposed against the powerfully hard-hitting “Ratboy,” and the guitar notes hit are sustained in effects that are enticing.
Only time can tell if Executioner’s Mask is in for the long haul, but Despair Anthems gives a heady introduction to the band’s aged sound. And the band says it themselves with, “Just another Red Lorry, Yellow Lorry meets AFI rip-off band.” They know where they stand and that should be respected.