Forging a name as one of the loudest, and most explosive bands of recent years, A Place To Bury Strangers have enjoyed significant success since their excellent self-titled debut back in 2007, but have always shown the desire to eclipse their earlier efforts. Four records down the line however, and their brand of brooding, psychedelic noise-rock seems to be headed in a different, not especially welcome direction.
While Transfixiation doesn’t mark a drastic sea change for the band, stylistically it points to a much darker but ultimately more confused-sounding animal. The dynamic, yet controlled industrial sound employed on their previous work has noticeably diminished in favour of a much darker, more foreboding approach that sounds far less melodic and increasingly indignant. While the Brooklyn trio demonstrate their trademark exuberance on high-octane garage punk numbers like ‘Straight’, ‘We’ve Come So Far’, and ‘I’m So Clean’, and their rhythmic flair on the brilliantly understated ‘Supermaster’, the impossible levels of distortion on tracks like ‘Love High’, ‘What We Don’t See’ and ‘Fill the Void’ often result in an abrupt, much more contorted sound.
Tonally the album feels far too somber, with the band’s exploration of their dark side as subtle as a sledge-hammer. Ominously downbeat tracks like ‘Deeper’ and ‘I Will Die’ (where frontman Oliver Ackerman unashamedly repeats that he will ‘die and die again’), effectively sound like death metal with the volume turned down and bring an unwelcome severity to the album. While a style change by the band should be applauded, A Place to Bury Strangers sometimes give the impression they’re trying to strangle the life out of their own dynamism, and despite the notable good material on Transfixiation, it certainly would have benefited from a more ethereal approach.