I’ve said this before but there are certain records that I’m so into that I find it hard to articulate properly within these pages so, more often than not, those records remain as an unfinished draft or at least saved for a year end list. Then there are those that are out and available for the masses that I don’t feel the need to type about after the fact because who needs a critic’s take when it’s out for all to consume???
Strvngers is a special kind of artist that really demands attention so regardless of their third full-length already being out and being generally weary of a review living up to the epicness of the album, we’re going to make a go at it anyhow.
I’ll be honest, after hearing the Doom and Gloom of the title track that was released as the first taste of Death Is The Only Way Out…..I was concerned. This wasn’t the same duo that made me want to jump on the dance floor and bang my head as they did with Amor/Noir but, after spending a recent train ride listening to the album over and over and over (and over some more), I discovered that what’s here instead is even better.
Quite simply, Death Is The Only Way Out is leaps and bounds beyond what Kyle Craig and Maria Joaquin have done before. Driven by a dark and dense message with the subject of suicide and heartbreak flowing throughout, there’s no question that the album is an emotionally heavy one. But it’s also the most sonically heavy one Strvngers has conjured, too.
“Abre Los Ojos” is kind of a shedding of the Amor/Noir skin to start off the album with those swirling electronics from Craig being stripped off before “Frailty” comes in like dream with glistening synths, delving into Post-Punk yet still retaining a Darkwave air. “Criminal” and “Misery” are like peas in a pod, layering on the beats thick with the former letting Joaquin drop a vocal melody akin to a classic ’90’s R&B jam while the latter grinds with an understated guitar driving the track forward.
“976-EVIL” is brutal and eerie and the start of a new trend throughout the record. Those Korn influences we mentioned on the last record come back with a vengeance with Joaquin adopting a growl that’s similar to Jonathan Davis’ more darker turns (The breakdown in “Dead Bodies Everywhere” comes to mind here) and then “Crucifixxx” dips its’ toes into the Electro pool again as this easy stand out on the album pulsates and makes a case for “Goth Anthem of the Year” (Not an actual thing). In fact, you should definitely go and request it the next time you’re out getting your dance on at your favorite Goth night…or any dance night for that matter!
“Necromancer” follows and is spooky and ethereal as it sullenly waltzes across the dance floor like the most perfect ditty to be used as the soundtrack on any catwalk or at next year’s Halloween party while “La Petite Mort” is in the Shakespearean sense (Look it up!) with the feels it brings forth, thumping and throbbing, swelling with electronic ecstasy before exploding in one heavy ass breakdown.
“Swan Dive” is Static X lite with a little of a Lo-Pro (Disintegration Effect in particular) feel in there as well which kicks off with a drum and bass intro to further the sonic mindfuck before a huge chorus enters and this rabble rouser is off and running to get listeners on their feet, jumping for no reason to the beat, and pumping their fists in the air. Then “My Black Queen” enters and is beyond epic. We’re talkin’ the Electro opera performed in The Fifth Element kinds of epic here. Later still, “Intransigent” has Joaquin deliver lines like some sort of Jimmy Urine meets the aforementioned Davis amalgamation before the eight minute and change monolith of a closing dirge, “Death Is The Only Way Out”, crawls in to culminate this whole sonic masterpiece.