“There was a spark and it burned beyond control.” These words echo during “Poor Dorian” of The Casket Lottery’s new record Real Fear, encapsulating the aggression, loss, and utter devastation that each song lives and breathes through. This record, being the first since 2003’s Possiblies and Maybes, shows a meaner, fiercer side of the band not previously seen in such a broad development.
With the brash take-off of “Blood On the Handle,” the lines between post-rock, indie-rock and even hardcore will become blurred, much as the disfigured and washy melodies that like to bob up in and out of the mix alongside such large and spacious vocals. “In the Branches” is instantly likable; between trade-offs of yelled shrills and grungy guitars there is enough melody to get you singing right from the get-go. Speaking of the sounds you’ll hear, the mix is of a very strange quality but not so strange that it will affect your listening experience. You’ll be bombarded by multiples of spastic and gigantic sounds from every angle, which simultaneously create this gritty wall of texture around them. The vocals sit further back than a lot of the instrumentation on most songs, but combined with suspenseful harmonies and basket tosses of screaming, each of the heavier songs cut with razor-like sharpness while the softer ones take the notch back only a hair.
While the overall theme of that aggressive, sinister, and just dark motif dances in and out of each song, some carry an almost positive duality at the same time (“The Moon and the Tide,” “Radiation Bells,” “Baptistina”). Much of the record is just creepy in terms of the melodies that wouldn’t feel out of a place in a horror film. TCL this time around also play on your ability to be surprised. Take “Sarastro,” a short but sweet piano melody that harnesses a steady build-up of that suspense mentioned earlier, but then stops abruptly before continuing in “Pamina.” Much of this record is just weird, but in a good way – even when the subtle synthesizers come in.
Maybe you’re wondering if this record could be too weird, too left field for TCL fans for its own good. Luckily, there’s some more grounded pieces that still offer plenty of excitement scattered throughout – like the ferocious and insanely catchy “Ghost Whiskey” or the intrinsic bopping of the “The Door.” Like a twisted and hellacious kaleidoscope, the record twists and turns until reaching the climax, which is “Real Fear.” Heavy and belligerent, just how the record started, it coasts through screams and static riffing and waves upon waves of drum crashes until stopping unexpectedly before closing out with a greatly executed piano melody to really bring home that overall theme that has been working its magic the whole time.
So almost a decade goes by, and minus a few EP’s/Splits, The Casket Lottery have returned. The sound you know is there, but with this newfound take on theatrical (I use that word lightly) elements, the seriousness of each song takes shape in a different way, allowing multiple listens before it’ll really hit you. The best records are the ones that have to sink their teeth into you before you’re hooked, and after listening to Real Fear you’ll bleed for weeks (out of pure musical appreciation, of course).