Writing a good post-hardcore album is pretty easy. All you have to do is take a pinch of traditional hardcore attitude, add a willingness to experiment with tempo, tone and dynamics, and apply the songwriting skills and soul to make it stand out from the crowd.
Okay, maybe that last one’s kind of tricky.
Facetiousness aside, even with a genre as dedicated to expression and innovation as post-hardcore, there is always the danger that a band will stick too closely to the genre template, becoming one of the walking dead, part of the soulless throng who sound alike and dress alike. Unlike zombies, they are unlikely to infect anyone with their bite: boredom and unoriginality may be the least infectious diseases on the planet, even if they are everywhere. Fortunately their counterpart is everywhere too in musicians who chase something new: experimenting, inventing and trying to bring to life that sound that until now has existed only in their head. At which point the zombie horde will swiftly appropriate the innovation for themselves of course, but at least it’s out there now, scratching an itch people didn’t even realize they had. That’s the power of experimentation, of pushing it, and it’s the power Damien The Cat’s new EP, The Acosmist, runs on.
Also I’m sorry about the zombie metaphor. It crept up on me.
Damien The Cat’s music is as cuckoo as their name suggests. It seems that within the loose confines the band have set themselves there is nowhere they won’t go. Tonality and tempo are instruments to be played as much the traditional guitar, drums and bass, and their fretboards get a serious workout on The Acosmist. The band explores the swathe of territory between a funereal plod and catch-me-if-you-can hardcore thrashing, often within the same riff. Contrast is the watchword here, the band seemingly determined to pack every musical trick in their arsenal into the EP’s tight 25 minutes. The vocals explore spoken word passages, raw screaming and delicate singing. Guitars embrace gentle melodies, straightforward hardcore stamping and more angular, jazzy riffs. The drumming almost feels like the result of an improv session, constantly changing and shifting. In theory, it should all be too much, but it’s fascinating, like watching every performer in a well-drilled variety act coming together to perform at once, all while they’re very fucking angry at the audience.
Beyond the ballsy diversity of the record, it’s a lot of fun to listen to. Damien The Cat may be spewing crazy from every feline orifice, but they sure know how to make it taste good. The simpler riffs are immediately catchy, which is common enough. However, when the notier, wandering riffs like the outro to “The Furthest Corners” can hook you straight away, there’s a rarer talent at work. It’s this combination of songwriting meeting skill that gives the album its most valuable attribute: it’s a work that grabs your attention on first listen, but can hold it for many listens after. You can leave it on in the background while working (well, that depends on how cool your office is) or you can give the intricate music full attention. In both scenarios it works, having the surface level appeal for the former and the swirling musical depths to support the latter.
Damien The Cat have left their pawprints on a fine work of art here. The Acosmist is an album that keeps on giving, and a treat for any fans of experimental post-hardcore. Part 1: The Darkest Corners is embedded below and you can find the full EP on Damien The Cat’s Bandcamp.