The opener on A Place to Bury Strangers excellent new record, Transfixiation, is “Supermaster.” It has all you love from the band – Oliver Ackermann’s jangling guitars that skronk out weird sounds, lyrics about strange relationships, powerful drumming by Robi Gonzalez, and hypnotizing bass lines Dion Lunadon, but it doesn’t have the pummeling volume you expect.
As Admiral Ackbar would tell you, “It’s a trap!” APTBS shakes you from the strange trance of the first track with “Straight,” which is best suited for white-knuckle drives down a double solid centerline at 3am. I’m not sure if “Love High” is a love song, but it’s about passionate love and kinky sex if it is (judging from the pounding guitar and bouncing-off-the-bedroom-ceiling vocals).
“What We Don’t See” sounds like a great, lost Joy Division cut. “Deeper” is the best sludge / doom metal track you’ve heard so far this year and it’s not even by a doom metal band. This track must chase the weaker members of a live audience into dark corners. It isn’t for the timid (and neither is any live APTBS show). It’s hard to do this song justice in this review because it is such a massive, creepy presence. It’s like H.P. Lovecraft trying to describe the Old Ones.
I was happy to hear an instrumental (“Lower Zone”), as it gives the band another chance to experiment with different soundscapes. “We’ve Come So Far” is another song about a weird, perhaps kinky relationship and is one of the best cuts on the record. It and “Straight” are the two most accessible tracks on Transfixiation for new APTBS fans. Ackermann shreds on the track without taking the guitar licks too far off the rails, Lunadon lays down one of his great droning grooves, and Gonzalez’s beats are as precise as a robotic arm on a Detroit auto assembly line.
I can’t help but wonder if following “We’ve Come So Far” with a track titled “Now It’s Over” is symbolic of a bad relationship Ackermann had at some point in his life. It reminds me of early Love and Rockets mixed with Television. Gonzalez’s drums on it continue to build the argument that he is actually a cyborg.
“I’m So Clean” has APTBS back on the attack with some of Ackermann’s liveliest vocals layered with breakneck stuff from all three members. “Fill the Void” will certainly fill any gaps in your eardrums and / or brain because it is a blistering assault on the senses. I love Lunadon’s bass work on this, as it’s some of the most distorted and rocking on the record.
The album ends with the cheery-titled “I Will Die.” We all will, of course, and I wonder if APTBS is trying to tell us that they believe the end will be a mind-altering mix of cacophony, reverb, and sensory experiences we can barely comprehend…because that’s what this track is.
It’s what the whole album is, really. It’s mind-altering, strange, loud, and not for everyone…but I’m recommending it to every person I know.
~ NIk Havert
Nik Havert is a writer, DJ at WSND 88.9FM University of Notre Dame, harmonica player, martial arts instructor, comic book publisher, crime fighter,music lover, cult movie enthusiast, and modern day Renaissance man. He hopes to shark cage dive sometime in the next few years and enjoys travel and good natural root beer. Visit his web site at http://www.picklepress.net.
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