Album Review: meth. – Shame

Album Review: meth. - Shame
Reviewed by Dan Barnes

Four-years after the release of debut album, Mother of Red Light, Chicago-native, Seb Alvarez and meth. return with a new record, and it’s one hell of a head-f*ck! SHAME is the composer’s process of dealing with his issues of bipolar and addiction, a catharsis played out across forty-five minutes of sheer musical nihilism.

The blurb accompanying the record states Seb is shedding the fictional narrative of his previous work and addressing the vulnerabilities directly, dragging those dark places out into the light to see what demons lurk in the shadows.

SHAME is an album steeped in anxiety-inducing atmosphere, from the huge percussive bombs dropped at the very outset of the journey, to the closing explosions of the climax, there is rarely a time on the record where respite shows itself.

Following the explosive opening, Doubt plays out with a persistent, echoing industrial feel. Seb’s vocals are raw and strained, Nathan Spainhower’s bass a constant rumbling companion to Andrew Smith’s uncompromising drums. There are times when Doubt closely resembles Meshuggah at their least harmonious or melodic, and a sense of overbearing weight lies heavy.

Album Review: meth. - Shame

If I were to sum up the whole of this album in one sentence it would be: “Imagine if Converge and Godflesh worked together”; the seven tracks are split between the Mathcore insanity of the likes of Converge and The Dillinger Escape Plan. Compulsion starts with a haunting shriek and a vortex of whirling guitars, as Zack Farrar and Michael McDonald’s [checked, and not that one] strings feel as though they are being dragged into the eye of the storm. Even though both Cruelty and Blackmail operate in the same Mathy mode, it is Compulsion that is the most uncompromising and the one that best finds Noise and Power Violence elements used.

People are strange machines – as Buzzcocks once said – and if SHAME is to be seen as a representation of Seb’s struggles, they need to be regarded from different angles. Blush starts with some old school metal guitars, finding the song running at a lower tempo, before twisting itself into tortured shapes and terrifying Black Metal noise. There are moments here when the spectre of Napalm Death at their most experimental can be heard, or when meth.’s own Swans influence comes out.

Such is the overwhelming affect of Blush that Give In feels like a blessed relief. The band adopt a damn-fine Godflesh sound, complete with vocals sunk low in the mix and an unrelenting industrial progression broken only by injections of upbeat and jolly passages. These seem more unsettling than the Broadrick-like sections.

SHAME’s title track begins to lead us out of the record with a lavish celebration of the album’s anarchic nature. It certainly feels like less is more as the six-minute plus duration finds meth. keeping the experimentation in check.

meth.’s new album is anything but a party record, rather it’s seven challenging, unyielding and raw tracks, painting a picture of pain and guilt, and of a soul looking for resolution. Heavy subject for so early in the year, but I’ll wager a shiny shilling, this is the kind of record still playing on your mind when the days are long and warm.

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