A Black People’s third album was released earlier this month, and before I listened to it, I truly had no idea shoegaze and deathrock could be combined so perfectly. On paper, it sounds like the type of genre mash-up that could only be accomplished with a very particular sound or at least could never be truly well executed – yet alas, these guys manage to combine the sounds of Christian Death and My Bloody Valentine with ease and range like nothing I’ve heard before!
The album opens with “Addiction,” which starts out funky and wavering. Before you even have time to process what you’re listening to, the lead guitar chimes in and the song becomes more amplified/less lo-fi. They’re combining a fast punk sound with slow, dark vocals to create a unique sound in deathrock. I’ve heard similar bands in the dark punk genre, but these guys have more of a raw, energetic sound. “Piss” opens with a beautiful, unexpectedly sophisticated bass line followed by some guitar lines that when combined, compliment each other into an impressive riff. The vocals are spaced out dramatically and listlessly. I have to admit this was one of the most inspiring songs for me; it could be a track in a modern day Only Theatre of Pain.
“Shame” has a longer, traditional sounding guitar intro. Lyrically, it’s one of the most powerful on the album, deadpan vocals chanting “I wish that I could make you feel, feel this way / I want to make you feel… ashamed…”. Simultaneously it boasts some of the best guitar work on the album as well – insanely catchy with a traditional 80s deathrock sound. As the vocals fade out, the album goes back to the warbling feedback noise heard at the Addiction intro, but it’s more drawn out and several new effects are discernible. Ironically the song “Anxiety” isn’t a fast paced punk-based track, in fact it has more of a shoegaze/post-punk vibe to it. Even the vocals become dream poppy. This is the part of the album where it became clear to me that these guys aren’t strictly a deathrock/dark punk band by any means – they have one hell of a talented range. As someone who struggles with anxiety on a daily basis, this track spoke to me on a personal level and the sound conveyed the feeling perfectly. “Hate for the love” is chanted delicately over an uplifting guitar, thumping drum beat, and mystical synth which slowly swirls into oblivion as a new guitar line overrides the rest of the track. Absolutely gorgeous and an instant highlight for me.
“Follow” opens with what feels like a combination between the last track and the warbling noise. The beat is still reminiscent of what I’ll refer to as their “shoegaze side,” but the guitar and vocals bring us back to the early deathrock sound heard earlier on. This is evened out perfectly with a female vocalist singing alongside the lead vocalist in a softer, but equally haunting voice. I’m struggling not to call this track “deathrock shoegaze”directly since it encapsulates both genres so well. (“Deathgaze” has a nice ring to it, but it’s already the name of a Visual kei band, so deathrock-gaze it is!) “Hush” continues with dual vocals as featured in the previous track, although the female vocals are now more like whispers alongside the male vocalists, which fits the topic well. This has more of a romantic deathrock edge to the sound. There’s more spooky, echoing vocals, insanely beautiful guitar which brings the energy up and down at the perfect moments. This is another favorite of mine.
When “Filth” opens with a slower dreampop vibe, you start to think there won’t be anymore fast punk stuff throughout the rest of Dust & Shadows, but then it tricks you by suddenly jumping into more of it! The verses are full of spiteful disgust over incredible deathrock bass and guitar, but the chorus picks it up to more of a punk overtone (a perfect choice in sound given the subject matter). The bass heavy track “Sterilize” brings us back to the more deathrock/darkwave side of things, at least for a bit. The male vocals are very dark, complimenting the rest of the music nicely, but over time the song eventually evolves into a softer track with the female vocals leading. It’s like this band is unintentionally coming at the deathrock-gaze thing from all angles and I absolutely love it – it shows off their talent nicely.
From this point forward, Dust and Shadows becomes more of an instrumental album with some haunting lo-fi whispers throughout. “Solidarity” is what I would call the closest thing to an instrumental track. It has an uplifting dreamlike vibe, but as the song progresses (this is the longest track on the album at over 6 minutes), it becomes darker in tone. It turns more into an actual song about 2 and a half minutes in. The whole thing evokes images of an overcast, rainy day with tiny holes of sunlight peeking through the clouds at varying intervals. Dreamy female vocals start up around the four minute mark; the song keeps evolving as it progresses like some crazy dark shoegaze jam session. “Jisei” starts with a lo-fi buzzing guitar and some warbling that gets louder and then remains stagnant. Lo-fi vocals can be heard just under the guitar. As the music fades and the vocals remain the same, you can hear it’s a few layers of vocals and seems to be mostly nonsensical. It feels like an unveiling of unsettling madness. What a masterpiece of an album.