Being among the last of The Wave to release something this year, Maryland’s Pianos Become the Teeth had a lot riding on their followup to the highly praised Old Pride. Given the buzz the underground garnered the group in the time since Old Pride’s release, the band’s writing and recording of their followup The Lack Long After turned out to be even more highly anticipated than some fans originally thought. Yet, after releasing an impressive outing last time, the band’s second full-length takes strides to harness an ever-brimming emotional charge into a stronger, focused assault on the heartstrings.
Pianos’ ambiance-laced post-hardcore takes a steady step forward on The Lack Long After, showing growth without leaving behind what made them stand out of the pack with Old Pride. “I’ll Be Damned” is a beast of an opener, as colossal guitars ring out above the maniacal drumming, leaving the wall of sound to later transform into a sparse, yet brooding spotlight for vocalist Kyle Durfey’s gritty, passion-filled growls. This ending paves the way for “Good Times,” giving us drawn out guitar hits and scattered drumming – an ending slightly too familiar to keep these tracks as separate as they should be. In its own sense, “Good Times” is the product of mid-tempo angst and the band’s leanings toward post-rock and nearly mountainous arrangements; it just loses a bit of its starting tension when the track before it ends in a similar way that this one begins. “Such Confidence” carries the slow-jam torch well though, giving us simple, tension-filled guitar lines to build up into a blitzkrieg of drums and screams when the guitars go into high gear. There’s no clear leader on the track though, as the driver’s seat seems to flow from one instrument to the other with no pauses or letups, culminating in a manic bridge that sets up the cathartic release.
Yet rather than go for the jugular after such a drawn out tune, “Liquid Courage” takes the role of Old Pride’s “Cripples Can’t Shiver,” albeit without the emotional tug of a spoken word spot to pull at the heartstrings. With somber strums and thundering drums to back him, Durfey’s slightly distanced screams seep with emotion and a sense of urgency. The transition into “Spine” lunges us from a near crawl to a bullet barrage of drumming – a much more natural and understandable shift between tracks. The ending half of this eight track record is the bread and butter of The Lack Long After. There’s no seams or missed connections between the vicious outpourings of furious drumming and the often engulfing wall-of-guitar sound.
Ending on an ascent and conquering of a peak, “I’ll Get By” boasts bright post-rock melodies and a slightly less abrasive vocal approach from Durfey, who’s battling with his inner demons. The pleading line ‘But I couldn’t save you, I couldn’t save what was taken away / And I’m still singing, you still can’t stay’ hits hard despite being camouflaged by lush guitars and laid-back beats. In the massive closing passage, the band gives everything and makes one more desperate grasp at the heart, capping the album with an unresolved sense of agony that is difficult to swallow as the last bits of sound decay behind the sound bite of ‘You know how much he loved you.’
On first listen, this album is a jarring, often abrasive record that for some can be difficult to truly get into. But for those willing to delve into its tumultuous songwriting and screaming, Pianos Become the Teeth’s second album is an emotion-wringing journey of loss and struggle that proves this band is not just embodying some old ghost of screamo and post-hardcore past. The Lack Long After is an album you will be moved by.