A lot of buzz words get thrown around when people discuss hardcore. âCatharsis' is probably one you've heard more than a few times.
It could be the catharsis a listener experiences through songs or an album he or she relates to, the catharsis of seeing a live band and channeling all that pent-up anger and emotion into screaming every lyric, or the catharsis felt by a band's lyricist when all of his or her demons are exorcised through pen, paper, and the recording booth.
The latter is unquestionably what's on display with The God Complex, Another Breath's second full-length and first on Panic Records. Singer Ted Winkworth has never been one to shy away from extremely personal lyrics, but the words that comprise these 11 songs are positively chill-inducing. It's so stark and so honest that the album is borderline voyeuristic; it's as emotional and gripping an experience as an album could ever provide.
Look no further than the title track, "The God Complex," for a perfect encapsulation of what this album has to offer. Above only a mid-tempo chord progression -- no bass, no percussion -- Winkworth reaches to the deepest recesses his vocal chords can offer to convey a deeply personal story about his father's life affecting his own:
"I lost my faith in God somewhere back round '89, when my old man came home piss drunk smelling like a whore, and I saw my mother cry / Yeah that's the day that God died, that's the day I realized that it's all on me, and I escaped in the music / Years passed and mama said, 'boy, that's not how a man should be,' after 20 years, we walked away but that night still comes to me / When I'm standing in the mirror face to face with God and the Devil and my father and myself / Yeah, we're all one but I don't believe in any of us, and I say, 'It's just you and me now. It's you and me. It's you and me you old son of a bitch. It's you and me' / 'Cause my father's gonna die alone, with the TV on, and I don't wanna die alone with the TV on"
Then, the simple riffs become deeper when the drums and bass come splashing in and the song is taken out with repeated screams of "there's still no God." No, a hardcore band tackling religion is nothing new. A hardcore band tackling family issues is nothing new, either. But the honesty with which it is taken on is something most bands shy away from. Where most bands refuse to peel that final, revealing layer away, Another Breath revels in the chance to get everything off their chest.
And as strong as The God Complex is lyrically, this five-piece matches it musically. "Sin Eater" is a torrent of pent-up anger unleashed through lightning-fast chord progressions, pounding drums and vocals to match. The quick pace of the song lends itself well to the theme -- a take on the biblical notion that a father's sins are passed down to his son. The palpable anger in the delivery and the pace of the song evokes such a sinister mood -- and that Another Breath are able to so easily create this mood is a testament to the power of their sound. It's one thing for a band to sound angry. It's one thing for a band to be heavy. But there's just such a visceral level of emotion in Another Breath's music, such a real energy that each minute is more breathtaking than the last. And however hyperbolic that sounds, it still doesn't do the band justice.
Still, Another Breath aren't content to stick with a uniform sound and approach. "Dogtown" is a stripped-down nod to '80s hardcore accompanied by Black SS's Chuck Hickey that speeds up the album's pace and speaks to the quintet's versatility. Heavy riffs punctuate the back-and-forth between Winkworth's anguished delivery and Hickey's untethered rage before some quick chord progressions carry the song out. "I Am the Messiah" is a riff-heavy track that teeters back and forth between slow, bass-driven verses and slick bridges that give the song a real rock ân' roll feel.
"Makyo" changes the pace again when the quiet, melodic chords and titter-tatter of the snare lead into a conversation with The Devil himself. When the music gets more aggressive, so does the tone of that conversation; what seems at first a song about suicide is actually a song about the inner strength a person possesses. The strength to spurn adversity and what can seem like an easy way out. The strength to make it to the next morning.
What seems on the surface an anti-religious record is actually a record about the strength of self. The strength to navigate through the everyday trials of life knowing that everything needed to get through them is contained within. The message on The God Complex is strong.
The delivery? Iron-clad.