The “difficult second album” is a phenomenon that has plagued artists throughout generations and genres. The decision to stay the course or drastically alter direction nearly always makes room for alienation and disappointment.
Listeners form their own interpretation of what a band means to them, and can take it to heart if that vision is compromised. At the end of the day, however, it isn’t theirs to dictate.
Therein lies the sheer ballsiness of ‘This Is The History’, the second full-length studio effort from Modern Rituals. While not a total far cry from the established lo-fi fuzz of their earlier EPs and debut album, there’s a much more menacing presence this time around.
A sheer sense of dread permeates through every facet of these tracks. From the brooding low-end tones to the frantic displacement of string and horn sections. The caustic chaos is best exemplified on lead single, ‘The Bull Never Wins’, as well as the haunting ‘Scratcher In The Mash’.
Where the band have always proudly worn their nineties influences on their collective sleeves, this is not your dime a dozen grunge rehash. Sonic Youth and earlier The Pixies are who immediately spring to mind when unwrapping these dense, noise-rock clusters. Even more upbeat cuts like ‘Ultima Thule’ and latest single ‘Them Days Is Gone’ toe a precarious line between vibrant and dissonant. While obvious comparisons to Pavement can be found in more melodic aspects, the malevolent undercurrents flood in from the likes of Melvins and Daughters.
Confusion and despair are not just exuded through the wailing vocals and narrative, character driven lyrics, but through the music itself. A tenuous relationship between beauty and sheer ugliness is exemplified, mirroring the emotional processes and struggles of everyday life. Angular acoustic guitar lines combine with jolting walls of harsh fuzz to create truly disorienting cacophonies. For every moment of detachment, there’s one of intense anguish and frustration.
‘This Is The History’ ebbs and flows like someone losing their temper and lashing out, only to calm themselves enough to lure you back in to explode even further. What makes the album so remarkable is its endearing and endless ability to make you come back each time, willing to hear out the human hiding beneath.