Post-punk and noise rock legends Membranes return with their new effort ‘What Nature Gives… Nature Takes Away’. It is a fitting title that matches the balance of light and dark tones displayed throughout this 16 track effort.
The Blackpool veterans have provided us with a sonic and gritty adventure and from the offset present a bleak archaic album cover to set the eerie mood of the album. The album ranges from styles to traditional post punk rhythms to varied industrial rock, noise rock, nu wave and dabbles of alternative metal. All of these sounds are vital to making the album dark and death orientated.
The bass guitar leads much of the album in a variation of tones and styles whether being the Joy Division-esc intro to the title track, the uncomfortable sounding playing style and haunting delay effect in ‘The City Is An Animal (Nature Is Its Slave)’, or even the fuzz driven moments with a prime example being ‘Snow Monkey’. The bass is loud and dominant and sets the thunderous life/death theme to the album.
The chorus of vocals and dark operatic style that feature throughout many of the tracks, especially as closing points on ‘Mother/Ocean’ and ‘The Magical And Mysterious Properties Of Flowers’ ignite the religious and archaic connotations the artwork envisions. The latter concludes with loud ‘ohhhhohhhh’ yelling and feels as if the song is descending into madness. The female wailing vocals on ‘Black Is The Colour’ also the provide the same eerie mood as the rip through punk bass riffs.
The vocals really are a highlight on this album for the variety of styles, John Robb displays haunting whispering moments and gritty lows, feeding the anguish of the album. There are plenty of spoken narrative moments with Robb’s deep vocals sitting nicely with the rest of the music with a highlight being a love and death contrast in ‘The 21stCentury Is Killing Me’ and the bleak questioning of life in ‘Winter (The Beauty And Violence Of Nature)’.
The guitars are fuzzy, sonic, distorted and full of riffs that are the backbone of the album. From the offset in ‘A Strange Perfume’ you are presented with dark overdrive effects that still have the punk edge. It’s a euphoric album at times with constant fuzz sounds, string arrangements and especially the nauseating guitar notes in ‘The Ghosts Of Winter Stalk This Land’ which remind me of Hurt by Nine Inch Nails. However, you can see that style throughout the album with the use of guitars and piano. There are scratchy guitars, imagery of hundreds of starlings flocking around Blackpool Pier and the sounds of crows which tend to represent death.
The loud bass finale in ‘Pandora’s Box’ and the theory of the box itself end the album with the mysterious themes of life and death throughout it and lead into a loud chaotic finish of guitars and drums. The album while long and really pushing the length an album can go to does stay consistent in its themes and exploration of music, sounds and styles.
The albums keeps post-punk relevant and showcases the experimentation the genre can still provide.