Album review: A Place to Bury Strangers – Onward to the Wall

A Place to Bury Strangers, the current flag-bearers of American Noise, will be releasing their latest Ep Onward to the Wall this month (7th of February) on the record label Dead Oceans. With the release of this new extended player, a short 5-track explosion, a slightly new feel is noticeably present. Although not far removed from their trademark sound of surfy, grimy, feedback driven rock, the sound has been sculpted into something typically reckless, yet more mature, without losing its chaotic charm. There seems to be more control on the Ep’s five tracks with lead singer and song-writer Oliver Ackerman venturing up new and unexpected sonic avenues.

The Ep opens with “I Lost You”, a fairly standard AptBS song both structurally and sonically. Despite lacking any real eye-opening moments, it is a suitably loud and vicious opener to the Ep. “So Far Away” delivers more of the noise of the opening track, proudly bearing its influences on its sleeve with a subtle surf riff in the chorus and some guitar chime at the mid-point of the song reminiscent of the orchestral work during Nancy Sinatra’s moments in Lee Hazlewood’s “Some Velvet Morning”. Title track “Onward to the Wall” brilliantly introduces additional female vocals from Alanna Nuala to the usual Jesus and Mary Chain vocal drone of Ackerman, again creating a Lee Hazlewood-Nancy Sinatra-esque moment. The bass guitar comes to the forefront along with the usual motorik/apache beat of the drums which combine to drive the song whilst Ackerman’s feedback howls out in the background. This retreat of the guitars to allow the bass its place in the limelight leads to the creation of one of the most haunting and impressive AptBS songs to date. “Onward to the Wall” is about as far removed from the trademark sound of AptBS as they have ever been, yet it proves to be a masterstroke and highlight of the Ep. The remaining two tracks “Nothing will Surprise Me” and “Drill It Up” are a return to the classic AptBS sound, yet each fail to top the excellent title track, despite the fact that each of them are enjoyable in their throbbing drive and grime. Oliver Ackerman’s personally made Death By Audio guitar pedals feature prominently, and it is on the two final tracks of the Ep that they can be heard for all their ferocity.

Overall, the Ep can very easily be considered a great success and a step forward on AptBS’ journey. Four of the tracks offer the listener exactly what they would be expecting; a crash of feedback and reverb drenched drawl, hallmarks of the AptBS sound. The title track is something unexpected yet thoroughly exciting, showing, if anything, a bright future for the band as they explore new paths. Whilst delivering a slightly changed sound in parts, AptBS have created an intriguing collection of songs. Exciting times seem to be on the horizon for the band if this Ep is anything to go by. Well worth numerous listens, Onward to the Wall delivers on all fronts, maintaining the frantic sound of old, as well as showing positive progression into new terrain.

Text: Daniel Magee / Photography: Simon Robbillard

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