When you run your very own DIY effects-pedal company, what better way to market your products than on a record? Worship, the third record to come from the New York noise-rockers A Place To Bury Strangers is more than a mere advertisement though. Following the outright aural onslaught of 2009’s Exploding Head and being dubbed ‘the most ear-shatteringly loud garage/shoegaze band you’ll ever hear’ by The Washington post, it’s only a less intense record in the sense that the sound of an exploding bomb is less intense than the sound of a pneumatic drill inches away from your skull.
Of course Oliver Ackermann and co. are traditional shoegazers in the sense that they more than know their way around an effects pedal or two, however the key to their ingenuity lies in the way they fuse it with goth-tinged basslines and a razor-sharp industrial edge. Opening track Alone is amongst the best of APTBS’s work, as the sound of heavy machinery enters in and out alongside an amps-to-11 guitar assault – the two don’t sound particularly dissimilar, and that’s why it works so well. Mind Control moves at lightspeed; it’s chaotic – yet incredibly catchy – guitar drones are drenched in feedback. Meanwhile, the likes of Leaving Tomorrow and Revenge – walls of ear-bleeding distortion and all – help to explain why they would name one of their effects pedals ‘Total Sonic Annihilation’.
There are plenty of curveballs though: You Are The One is by far their most atmospheric offering to date, thanks to one of the best basslines that Joy Division never made. It starts off quiet(ish – this is an APTBS record after all), but soon, as one would expect, becomes enveloped by a wave of noise. Slide is undoubtedly the biggest surprise: delicate, textured – though never chaotic – its guitar effect is sharp as glass but inherently beautiful. Despite feeling out of place on such an abrasive album, they nonetheless point to a much-needed musical growth, particularly vital for bands that rely on guitar effects – often criticised for treading water by their second album.
Then there’s the cover art – hands down the best to come out of 2012, in all its Mirror’s Edge-meets-dystopian London Shard glory. File under: ‘most likely to induce tinnitus’.