For styles that initially seemed like a really creative and bold step-forward, screamo and post-hardcore can sure seem repetitive and predictable. Quiet sections giving way to obvious loud sections, the clean vocals interlaced with screams, the breakdowns… it’s hard to remember a time when this kind of this was exciting and new. Thankfully, Death Mercedes take me back to a time when that was the case, and throw in a few potential surprises along the way. Make no mistake though, this is no nostalgia trip, but a very strong album that stands on its own merits.
I have to say “potential” surprises as the band features members of a host of French bands, most notable of which is Amanda Woodward. Said band’s album, La Decadence De La Decadence, got a lot of listens from this reviewer upon its release, mixing dub reggae with the more expected style of screamo/post-hardcore/emo/skramz/whatever-the-hell-you-want-to-call-it. I still spin it from time to itme when the mood takes me. It was a bold, exciting idea, and it’s little surprise to find that Death Mercedes have built upon it, blending the seemingly radically different genres of music together with skill.
What’s instantly notable about the album is the forward motion it always manages to convey. Dub reggae is a style that often feels plodding and stationary to me, unable to hold the attention, and that’s a complaint I can level at any number of other bands of various genres that are influenced by the style. The focus here is most definitely on the punk rock side of things though, with most of the album racing ahead with purpose, hammering out of the speakers with speed and volume. As far as the screamo/post-hardcore style goes, the band have got it down to a tee, and are a prime example of how to write top quality songs of this style. The moment during Borgne Et Aussi Aveugle, when the band slows things and down and engage in some wonderful vocal interplay over an emotive guitar-line, is especially thrilling. At points there’s a brooding, violent intensity to the music that is reminiscent of Converge, perhaps not in sound but certainly in atmosphere. At others there are guitars that reach for the heavens, being both wonderfully violent and majestic all at once – some of the guitar leads in Eternel Gagnant Du Sans Eclat are superb.
Even if previous songs featured moments of reggae-influenced calm – such as the break around 1:25 of Leurs Choix Desarment – it’s with L’Inconnue De La Seine that the influence becomes undeniable. It doesn’t last long though; the opening soon gives way to some of the fastest music on the album, the shift in styles and tempos being handled superbly. Ta Fin Du Monde later on in the album provides a further moment of relative calm, with the occasional echoing chord over bass work typical of dub reggae, even whilst the drums lay down a more creative pattern than might be expected, and when the song bursts to life it is much more effective for having had the quieter moments preceding it. Make no mistake though, this is a hardcore album through-and-through, with the reggae influence showing itself mainly in some excellent bass-lines – as is to be expected from anything showing a dub reggae influence – and smart use of dynamics.
At 28 minutes, it’s pretty much the perfect length for an album of this style, and represents another excellent release from the French scene (and yes, the vocals are all in French). That it’s up for free download via Throatruiner Records is also worthy of praise (as is the fact said download includes a folder called “FUCK LARS ULRICH”). It’s rare that any kind of post-hardcore or screamo record holds my attention these days, but with Sans Éclat, Death Mercedes have created a record that does more than that. It’s a creative, passionate album that is more than worthy of your time.