We Review The New Album From Stangers With Guns – All Pleasure Is Just Relief
Irish hard rockers Strangers With Guns return with their third full-length album, All Pleasure Is Just Relief. With an entourage of ferocious guitars and huge drums, they’re here to make sure you’re listening whether you choose to or not.
From the get-go with opening track PHUQUE you’re left thinking exactly that, physique… that was a rock and roll experience and a half. Fast-paced punk rhythms mixed with snare pounds, distorted hammer-ons, and gritty vocals, it’s a track that Buzz Osborne wished he’d written.
Dial It Back maintains the onslaught of noise with low guitar tones and distortion on steroids. The notes ring out mightily with sinister vibes underneath. As soon as that first chorus hits you’re swooped into the aggression but rhythmic access simultaneously. Two songs in and it’s already one of the most inventive and expressive hard-rock albums you’ve heard in years.
The bridge descends into a beefier chord climb than the chorus prior to it and obliterates the senses with its guttural distortion. The overall sound of All Pleasure Is Just Relief captures the potent merging of metal and grunge from the early 90s, but compliments that with production that both complements the instrument’s sonic abilities and the quality we look for in a modern recording.
I Am Henry Rollins which was one of the first singles released from the record takes you into the world of if Black Flag had come about in today’s world. The track features the speed changes and distorted chords that Black Flag captured in the American scene. The track still maintains a similar fashion already established with the drum production being so thick each snare hit is felt and each cymbal crash echoes around the track.
The guitars are obviously much more well-produced in terms of tonal qualities than that of Black Flag, but we do feel the concept of the band becoming Henry Rollins and co. The fuzzy bass and solo couple in the bridge give us a further delve into the 80s punk influence with the wah pedal sending the notes soaring whilst the brick wall bass carries on underneath.
So How Are You Feeling brings the level down but the grit and suspense remain, especially in the deep vocals like a descriptive horror movie narration. The guitars are given a push back in the verse and are much cleaner in the chorus, but there is no loss in the sense that this band is a wall of noise. I think it’s necessary that at this point in the record we aren’t overblown and are given a chance to sit back to the steadier rhythms. So How Are You Feeling has chunky chords that only require slight overdrive to provide an instant impact. With the accompanying vocals “I feel so goddamn good” the track is pumped with vocal energy that adds that extra missing compartment.
Not Your Day is one of the shorter moments on the record and whilst littered with fuzzy guitars that give out major feedback and lyrics mimicking the ‘valley of the shadow of death’ bible extract, it is certainly the least impactful moment on the record. The second verse with eerie notes ringing out revitalises the darker sound the band produces, but overall it’s a bit of a sleeper track in terms of impact, and the wailing guitar that leads the track sums everything up here that this was not the finest moment.
Pantera chugging and grooving drums mean we’re back in business musically with Positive Vibes. The chorus re-captures the earlier punk nods in Henry Rollins and moves back and forth between different tempos. Whether it’s a fast approach to the chorus or a galloping verse, Strangers With Guns aim to pick themselves back up. The only major issue here is the vocals feeling disjointed in terms of the two styles and I’m not quite sure what’s even being said.
The funky break away with low-toned bass and bouncing snare hits is a new direction for the record so far and four minutes in the band are treating you to their varied writing styles and influences. The track plays its way out in a sense that the band didn’t know where to finish it, but rhythmically it’s very enjoyable.
That’s Kinda Nice is a gentle overlap between two electric guitars and the shortest track on the record. The cleaner guitars and slow playing of the chords give the impression that we are nearing the end of this album experience and the track is like its title… kinda nice. The track moves on to the latest single from the record, Perception. The overall tone and rhythm of the track begin where we left off with cleaner guitars and a slow Nirvana style. The bass is more prominent as it climbs around the picked guitar notes.
The softer vocals harmonise smoothly with the undercurrent bass in the chorus and the guitars being pushed back makes Perception a more homely and perspective track. The balance of eerie guitar picking and layers of guitar riffs at the higher end of the fretboard looping around present a new atmospheric sound in the closing track Why. The deep vocals sound more native and daunting but don’t get accustomed to this sound too much.
With blasts of their familiar distorted shouting and vocals that are in your face, Strangers With Guns are going out with a bang. The post-grunge sound of the chorus releases the remaining energy the album has stored on its softer tracks before completely cutting off awkwardly. It’s almost as if a killswitch has been hit as layered guitar soloing begins again with an overall lo-fi sound for its production. Why asks the question why the band didn’t go out as they began?
All Pleasure Is Just Relief feels like an album in two halves once the overall sound of the band takes a step back to a softer approach. It’s an album that starts off very strong and aims to rattle your brain. Its latter half is more guitar-focused by another means with gentle lead notes and disjointed rhythms that feel tired and leave me wanting more. It’s an album worth listening to for the genuine variety it possesses and has eerie undertones throughout. It’s an album that leapfrogs genres and won’t be held accountable for switching things up and that’s why Strangers With Guns are sure to catch your attention.