ALBUM: Glassjaw – Material Control
December 1st, 2017
An awful lot can happen in 15 years, but one thing many thought would never happen was the release of a third Glassjaw record. For the past decade and a half, the band have released a few EPs and the odd single here and there, but in that time there’d been little mention of a follow-up to 2002’s ‘Worship & Tribute’, and any expectations they’d set yielded no result.
Yet, it’s 2017, and almost out of nowhere (“almost” due to an unfortunate blip on Amazon a couple of weeks in advance), the band’s highly awaited third record ‘Material Control’ is actually a reality. We finally have the ‘Chinese Democracy’ of the post-hardcore world.
The gates are smashed open from the get go with opener ‘New White Extremity’, a track which dropped back in 2015 exactly two years to the day prior to the album’s release. The dissonant guitars roar and scream, it’s incredibly abrasive, and this storming introduction of what’s yet to come follows in a similar fashion to ‘Tip Your Bartender’ from ‘Worship & Tribute’.
It bleeds effortlessly into ‘Shira’, a song that has been showcased on the road for the past few years, and holds one of the few easy to grasp hooks and melodies across the whole album in the chorus. From here on out, for the nearly 30 minutes of album remaining, there’s little time for a breather, little flagging of a stand-out single, and little notice of the band’s next move.
Indeed, there’s a lot going on at once almost all of the time. Justin Beck‘s guitar work is a flurry of neck-breaking riff work, buzzsaw chord slashes, and intricate riffs and leads that add intense layers of texture without treading into the realms of pretension. A large amount of it wouldn’t sound out of place on Deftones‘ 2012 LP, ‘Koi No Yokan’.
The bass (also done by Beck on this record) is a prominent feature, really gelling all of the parts together and ensuring they don’t stray off on their own tangents, whilst also installing a real groove and the uncontrollable need to shake your ass as much as you want to bang your head. ‘Strange Hours’ certainly sees it shine, with the bass acting as a heartbeat pulsating across the track.
Billy Rymer (The Dillinger Escape Plan) is recruited to handle duties behind the kit on this record, and he fits into the Glassjaw framework with ease and comfort. Speed and precision is the name of the game for ‘Closer’ and ‘Citizen’, the latter of the two has been stewing in the Glassjaw pot since 2001 when it was originally called ‘Neo Tokyon’, and ‘Golgorath’ and ‘Pompeii’ sees things a little more controlled, yet Rymer still helps to keep their foundation intact.
Daryl Palumbo stays back from screaming all hell – something that would be expected from an album as aggressive as ‘Material Control’ – and on many occasions instead uses his melodic voice to only aid the song and its trajectory. On certain cuts across the LP, such as the aforementioned ‘Golgorath’, his voice actually sits in the middle of the mix, and, though it certainly comes forward as an unorthodox decision when you come to think that the vocalist usually sits above everyone else, it actually serves the more muddy approach that Glassjaw have gone for on this LP; the voice being an additional instrument, and not the forefront of the band’s work.
The record’s closing moments acts as its most memorable. ‘My Conscience Weighs A Ton’ is classic Glassjaw from start-to-finish; the bass drives us along, before the guitars start slowly chugging us into the chorus, and the drums smash in as Palumbo wails elongated vowels over a river bed of oohs, and beg you to push that replay button over and over.
That is until we get the title-track interlude, injected with a manipulated edit of the tapped guitar lead from ‘All Good Junkies Go To Heaven’ before the aptly titled ‘Cut And Run’ enters, clocking in at just over 2-minutes in length, and plummets into the album’s climax with a few ominous chord stabs from Beck before Palumbo croons “A too mortal war, and simple mind.” Then, just as we’re sinking firmly into the track, Glassjaw cut and run, leaving us on a cliffhanger, and, just like that, we’re waiting for more.
Always one to play by their own rules and do things on their own terms, it’s entirely possible that, at least in regards to a full-length record, this could be the last one that we hear from Glassjaw. ‘Material Control’ will serve the die-hards, and recruit many new ranks to the cult-like Glassjaw fandom to worship and tribute the band alongside them.
Written by Zach Redrup (@zachredrup)