Back in 2005, my four favourite bands -- all stamped with the Org seal of approval -- released amazing albums: A Wilhelm Scream loosed Ruiner upon us; Propagandhi dropped Potemkin City Limits; Paint It Black put out Paradise; and the Lawrence Arms combined a smörgåsbord of wonderful non-album tracks into Cocktails and Dreams. It was a good year.
2009 sees all four release material in the same calendar year for the first time since -- in Propagandhi's case, the only time since -- but you'd be forgiven for expecting a bit more from them. Since Supporting Caste came out in March, the other three bands have released a piddling total of 19 songs combined, and nine of those were Paint-It-Black-length.
The final five to arrive, however, do not disappoint. A Wilhelm Scream, the eponymous EP format debut from a band with three LPs under their technically wizardrous belt and a bevy of Koen- and Smackin' Isaiah-labelled skeletons in their closet -- though 2001's Benefits of Thinking Out Loud, I should point out, is very good -- clocks in at just over 17 minutes. With a band like A Wilhelm Scream who are so good at releasing full-fledged albums, it's strange to listen to such a short release; it kicks off and then it's over so abruptly -- which is a shame, because it's fucking awesome.
What AWS does best is shred, and shred they do here. What differentiates A Wilhelm Scream from 2007's speed-fest fasterpiece Career Suicide, though, is its willingness to slow down at times -- specifically, on the third song, "Fun Time," which sounds like a longer version of "In Vino Veritas II," with alcohol-consumption-related lyrics to boot. It's a change of pace, literally and figuratively, but these guys, for all their technicality, still know how to write fun music, and I can't help but enjoy it.
Elsewhere, we're treated to a bit more variety as well. The wonderfully-titled "Every Great Story Has a Shower Scene" recalls some of AWS's shorter, punkier Mute Print-era songs, in length and structure if not in sound, while the final two, "Bulletproof Tiger" and "Skid Rock," pick up where Career Suicide closer "We Built This City! (On Debts and Booze)" left off, displaying AWS's aptitude for crafting long and extremely complex yet eminently listenable songs.
For its part, opener "Australias" exhibits the kind of stuff I consider "classic" A Wilhelm Scream material. I appreciate their newfound willingness to write four-minute songs -- and on a five-song EP, doubly so -- but I feel like they really excel around the 2:25 to 3:25 range (consider: "Famous Friends and Fashion Drunks," "Anchor End," "William Blake Overdrive," "The Rip," "The King Is Dead," "Killing It," "The Soft Sell," "Diver," "5 to 9," "Die While We're Young," "Jaws 3, People 0," etc.). Well, now you can add "Australias" to that list. It's a banger, and don't be surprised if you're shouting, "You tried to pull the wool over the wolf / 'Til you can't see the white of my eyes / Your bastards aren't so young anymo-oh-oh-ore*" in the coming weeks.
For those wondering how the addition of former Alucard guitarist Mike Supina in Chris Levesque's place would affect the band's sound, fear not. Though there does seem to be a deal more occult-powers-level guitar magick on tap here, it's in sync with AWS's general trend towards more and more technical work as they've progressed, and maybe it's because he's been with them now for two years, but his presence seems to have affected the mechanics of the band less than the arrival of bassist Brian Robinson and his penchant for fingertapping (which makes an impressive return in the intro to "Skid Rock") did on Career Suicide.
So, all in all, this is a very good EP -- whose only real flaw is the fact that it's not an LP -- and you'd be a fool to sleep on it. I only hope that we can get a full-length from these guys soon; they're so good, but I'm always afraid the rigorous touring schedule they put themselves through will wear the band into a breakup before their time. I guess that sense of fear only makes me savour the stuff we do get from them all the more. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go savour A Wilhelm Scream for the next 17 minutes. Oh, you know what I mean.
[With no physical copy to go on -- the album's available from the iTunes store as a digital download, but only from Paper + Plastick physically today, and no lyrics up online anywhere, these may not be correct, so don't sue me. Anyway, part of the fun of AWS is that you end up singing along to stuff that walks the fine line between making sense and making sense only to Trevor Reilly. God love 'im.]