A Place To Bury Strangers last released an LP in 2009 with Exploding Head. They’ve kept themselves busy with three EPs during that time and a few awesome new FX pedals and gadgets from lead singer and creator Oliver Ackerman. Now we finally have our full album experience with the release of Worship. The album is disturbing, anxiety inducing (thank bassist Dion Lunadon for that), and at times eerily beautiful. Don’t get it wrong, this is heavy noise-rock but with a narrative that you can follow. But does the story and sound come together to make a masterpiece or convoluted mess?
The album opens with the thunderous “Alone”. The drum beat hits you over the head and pulsates throughout this huge industrial track. This is industrial music for 2012- the crashing sounds of metal and hammer and piercing synth distortion. It’s a heavy start to Worship that takes a brief moment to contain itself with “You Are The One”. This single can make even the most calm person feel a sense of paranoia. Coupled with the dark music video, the sense of a dark presence and fear surrounds the track. The mixing here is fantastic- more industrial sounds, metal screeching, and a prolonged outro that mixes distortion and that perfect blend of psychosis created by sound. This is a dark melody and tale so far, but it’s one that keeps driving forward with every track.
Take a listen to “You Are The One” here:
After this monster start you could expect a break from the chaos, but that’s not the case. You are forced immediately into one of the best tracks on Worship. “Mind Control” is a haunting electronic and guitar speedster. Set to overdrive with bassist Dion Lunadon ferociously pushing the beat forward, and Ackerman keeping things impressively smooth over the hectic wall of sound, the track stays with you for days. It’s climatic and gripping- a theme for Worship as a whole.
The title track “Worship” and “Fear” settle into something slightly more manageable. What APTBS does so well on this album is genre defying in many ways. Usually this style of atmospheric noise-rock drowns the vocals and story of the narrative in wailing guitars and sound. That’s not the case here where Ackerman’s vocals are tracked noticeably above the drums and bass. There’s no hiding for Ackerman and his vocals shine on Worship because of it. It’s very rare that a noise-rock album can tell a story so clearly, but you have that opportunity to follow along precisely here with Worship.
On “Dissolved” the many influences that this album takes on are expanded even greater. If the first three songs sound like something from Nine Inch Nails (they toured together in 2008), the middle portion echoes of early The Cure. This is never more evident than on “Dissolved” which turns a slow burning track into a light-hearted and jumping tune. Well, as light-hearted as A Place To Bury Strangers can get that is.
The fuzz factor gets turned up again to full force on the backside of the album. “Revenge” is mind numbing hysteria and feedback. This is the darkest moment in an experience full of anxiety and tension. Turn out the lights and your mind will instantly create it’s own horror story- no narrative needed, just the music. Worship even includes a desert ballad of electronics and synth in “Slide”. A beautiful creation that floats over the drum track and the sounds of an echoing and expansive forest of electronics.
There’s is so much to be heard and seen in Worship. Experience this with a full sound system turned up loud and also plug it into your headphones to get some of the nuisances that you might have missed on the first and second listens. There’s a lot to be seen thanks to Oliver Ackerman’s coherent tale and vocals that plays out over the thunderous bass work of Lunadon. Dion is incredibly important to this album as he brings a significant style change that pushes the musicianship of the songs to the forefront like never before. This is incredibly important when comparing Worship to previous APTBS releases. The two took full production, writing, mixing and mastering control on this album. As Lunadon says, “It is our vision of what our music should sound like in 2012, not someone else’s interpretation.” In that case, this is a success of the greatest magnitude for A Place To Bury Strangers. Worship brings A Place To Bury Strangers to its greatest heights yet, and if it keeps going in this self-created direction what’s next should be something truly great.
~ A dark and sophisticated journey that still manages to shine as the band’s best work yet and a success for the idea of artists taking full artistic control during album creation.