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ALBUM REVIEW: The Damned Things – High Crimes

The Damned Things 2019

Reforming, returning and reigniting a music industry revival, The Damned Things release their second studio album High Crimes via Nuclear Blast Records. Devised a decade ago, guitarists Scott Ian (Anthrax) and Joe Trohman (Fall Out Boy) cultivated The Damned Things, derived from a mutuality of dirty rock ‘n’ roll music. Mustering up more members, drummer Andy Hurley (too borrowed out of Fall Out Boy) and vocalist Keith Buckley (behind the band Every Time I Die), as well as bassist Dan Adriano (one-third of Alkaline Trio). Swapping and shifting around line-up slots, the supergroup has resurfaced off the back of Trohman’s secret seldom songwriting sessions. The follow-up to first full-length debut Ironiclast, High Crimes results in a record relishing in each individual member’s essence, erupting in an energetic sonic dynamism. 

Lead single Cells fires on all cylinders, as a pent-up, fast-paced pandemonium of noisy punk verses, inspirited by Hot Snakes‘ hardcore garage punk, lead into chaotically anthemic choruses. The video for the single shows grotesque mutilations to Ian’s microphone stand skewered body, Trohman’s BBQ burnt sizzled hands, Hurley’s flattened face by an ampleness of inanimate objects, Adriano’s electrifying shock to his skeletal self, all the while  Buckley being left unscathed. Cells series of shocking unfortunate events are embodied in a frantic foray of attacking scream-leaning singing, rip-roaring percussion patterns and a dominating duality of crawling guitar chords and rubber band-esque riffs.

Pre-record release Something Good reigns in contagious chanting and clusters of clattering cowbells. A relentlessly repetitive narrative mulls over emotionally pop-tinged troubles of cowardly conduct, amid a situation of serenity. Soaring from its subdued state, the fast-paced production picks up as irresistible vocals roll out into rock ready choruses, and the chanting anthemic singalongs succeed in sculpting a song that caters to the masses, as a core crowd pleaser and easy listening earworm.

Trio of tracks Invincible, Omen and Carry A Brick take on a fast, heavy alt-rock aura. An acapella aperture moves into Invincible, as a moderate tempo  turns into an awakening attack of rustic riffs and raspy vocals. Successor Omen carries a coalescence of clamouring metal, mixed with a nonchalant air of a blues-tinged rock belter. Blasting out crashing cymbals, growling bass and melodic vocals, vowing to the mostly heavy metal vicinity of the LP’s sound. Sustaining on the ferocious, fierce and furious front, Carry A Brick blends an eclectic Hurley, Ian and Trohman synergy of drum and guitar breakdowns, besides the tranquil vocal tones and striking screams of Buckley.

Deep cuts Storm Charmer and Young Hearts hone in on paradoxical points of the spectrum. Storm Charmer, an ominous song originally set to open the High Crimes crusade is a slow, steady and slightly sultry jam session. Andriano’s authoritative bass lines blink in between hammering synths and sardonically sensual vocals. This five-minute rack is downright dirty rock ‘n’ roll. Yet, Young Hearts yields ballad harmonies as “Young hearts don’t come free tonight/And not one of them is built to save my life/If you appear behind a shadow/You disappear without a sound,” is sung under a haze of prominent piano in the latter lull.

Keep Crawling and Let Me Be (Your Girl)’s instrumental licks and intriguing lyrics tantalise and tease. Keep Crawling‘s narrative depicts a demeanour of an ashamed attitude within a broken body, that continuously carries on crawling back to a state of faith-filled normality. Hook heavy songwriting, Buckley belts out “I’ve been broken/I’ve been shamed/But I keep crawling back/You keep calling it faith/I got a fear that I can’t explain.” Evermore, Let Me Be (Your Girl) is a tale of two halves; it’s a seductive love song, simultaneously pleading to be a person’s significant partner. A ballad at its best, by the standards of the words spun into its inspiringly sweet storyline: “I don’t need to mean the world, I just wanna be your girl/I don’t need to have a heart, I just wanna leave a scar.” As rolling rhythms and thundering percussion pours into a repeatedly hypnotic chorus, there is chanting of “You’re the only one for me.” Trohman’s secret songwriting is unequivocally seamless.

The Fire Is Cold concludes the record with an explosive ender, that entices demonic dirty rock at its prime. Captivating, slow-paced segments showcase conflicting styles of mellow, melodic moments and manic instrumentals alongside the colossal metal bellows of Buckley’s vocals.

Produced by Jay Ruston (Steel Panther, Stone Sour) High Crimes captures the core characteristics of The Damned Things. Compulsive choruses, listenable lyrics, vibrant vocals and remarkable riffs, this record will remain on the minds of metalheads for the foreseeable.

8.5/10

Standout Tracks: Cells, Storm Charmer

For Fans Of: Cancer Bats, Sleepwave

Written by: Katie Conway-Flood

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