Label: Deathwish Inc
Album stream: Via Pitchfork Advance
Since their formation in 2009, Young And In The Way (YAITW) have been creating some of the most caustic, overwhelming, and downright dangerous music to have emerged in recent years. A leading example of the growing blackened-crust sub-genre, fusing punk rock aggression with the cold nihilism of black metal, the pairing of YAITW with Deathwish Inc, one of today’s most important underground labels, seems a natural fit. Following on from a pair of split releases last year comes When Life Comes To Death, their fourth full-length in an already excellent discography. The band have thus far displayed an excellent ability to tap in to the darker side of the human mind, the part that is filled with hate and anger, and there’s an inevitable worry that such levels of darkness could not be maintained. Thankfully for the listener, When Life Becomes Death does not disappoint in the slightest, perhaps being the most intense, furious record the band has produced yet. More than that, and as with all involved in the AC//13 collective, they continue to possess that special something that makes them seem like much more than a band, as if this is not simply music to listen to, but something far darker and more important; as if each record is an invitation to embrace the darkness within and to revel and find some sort of illumination in the negativity that results.
Right from the opening moments of “Betrayed By Light”, the nature of what awaits should be clear to anyone previously unfamiliar with them. It is all well and good describing the music, which is as prime an example of the meeting of crust, hardcore, and black metal as you are likely to find, full of hardcore intensity and guitar leads and melodies inspired by the best of Scandinavian black metal; the more overtly black metal moments are reminiscent of Watain, though they are far superior to anything that band has produced in a very long time. But what is harder to put in to words is just how dangerous it all sounds, which is something that is missing from the majority of both metal and punk rock of all styles produced today. The vocals are especially ravenous, meaning that titles such as “Fuck This Life” and “We Are Nothing” do not come across as empty, meaningless slogans, but as threats full of intent and purpose.
Even if the overall feeling of the record is viciously oppressive, it is to the band’s credit that they do not stick to a single method of attack, and there is plenty of variety to their assault. Even within the dominant paradigm of hard-hitting, furiously fast blackened hardcore there are plenty of details that give the songs character, such as the bursts of feedback during “Be My Blood” or the thunder, literal and metaphorical, during “Self Inflicted”. “We Are Nothing” is a more mid-tempo bruiser, with space given to display some subtle frost-bitten guitar leads amongst the crushing riffs, and the double-bass work during “Weep In My Dust” is devastating. Even outside these moments, there are plenty of tempo changes, and the band effortlessly move between intense faster sections, superb tremelo picking, and slower parts that emphasise the strength of their riffs.
Greater surprises come towards the end of the album, though. “Shadow Of Murder” is almost serene with its sense of space created by violins and acoustic guitars, yet the sense of darkness and danger is always present, aided greatly by the way the vocals are buried in the mix. When soaring electric guitars enter, the effect is absolutely stunning, verging on the transcendent. Likewise, closer “Embrace Extinction” is every bit as nihilistic and bleak as such a title would suggest, opening with an ominous choir that soon gives way to the band’s full-blooded attack. At over 10 minutes in length, it is a vast, monumental song, full of twists and turns, yet never once does it threaten to fall in to stagnation, nor does it risk becoming overly complicated and collapsing on itself. The closing moments, when an almost angelic choir combines with the band as the guitars descend in to feedback and noise, are absolutely stunning, hitting as hard as a blow to the chest. YAITW have always had a sense of ambition about their music, and these closing songs are perhaps the best realised examples of this, displaying a band in their ascendancy, the strongest (anti)light in an already strong sub-genre.
To reiterate, it is difficult to express just how threatening and vicious When Life Comes To Death sounds, and is one of the stand-out releases of the year thus far. I have been a big fan of the band for a while now, and I have no doubt in saying that When Life Comes To Death is their best, most fully realised release thus far. A sure contender for album of the year.
When Life Comes To Death is presently streaming in full via Pitchfork Advance. The album can be pre-ordered via Deathwish Inc on a variety of 12″ vinyl formats, as well as CD and download; the download can also be pre-ordered via Bandcamp, for release on the 27th May.