Birds In Row bring me back to the kind of excitement I felt in the ’90s when hardcore bands like Converge, Hot Water Music and Planes Mistaken for Stars began putting out music with tangible emotional depth that translated into sonic intensity. Rather than simply conveying anger, the French band go far beyond the commonplace punk blueprint and dig deeper into layers of feeling and express that musically. Their new album Gris Klein finds the band continuing to bring the kind of explosive energy and urgent emotional catharsis that makes them stand out from their peers.
The expansive guitar tones carry melody in a manner not unlike the journey many screamo bands have been on since the 2000s, but expelled with a higher degree of intensity. They’re well-crafted, dynamic, melodic songs—more than mere outbursts. There are equal amounts of emotion, poured into the guitar riff as the vocals. When they step on the gas, they do not fall into the common trap of making the song feel rushed—the acceleration is inextricably tied to the unleashed tension.
Gris Klein is a great sounding album, as well, though the group often chooses to seat the vocals back behind the guitar a bit, so some of the lyrics get buried at times. The greatest clarity is found in the mix of the drums, where each cymbal and tom stand out. “Noah” recoils back into tense, post-punk-like brooding where the vocals are spoken rather than screamed. This allows greater opportunity to hear the album’s lyrical content is as Bart Hirigoyen uses the metaphor of a dentist without his two front teeth giving advice he doesn’t use, not unlike most internet wisdom these days. “Cathedrals” runs off the momentum built in the previous song, but with its fleet-fingered bass playing standing out.
Thematically, the album tackles the mental health issues brought to light when many of us were forced to sit with ourselves in isolation. This topic comes to a head on “Nympheas” a song that goes from in-your-face aggressive to anthemic. The group continue to prove that hardcore does not have to live off breakdowns, and it’s actually the album’s more melodic touches that make the punk rowdiness work better as they balance out the sphere of dynamics. Things get a great deal darker and heavier with the deliberate pounding drone of “Rodin,” and the group continue to break things up with jangling guitars and more thoughtful vocal passages with “Winter Yet.” There is almost a jazz-like feel to how the song flows. Some of the nuanced interplay between the bass and drums proves the strength of their musicianship. They do not need mathematical acrobatics but rather work off jerking grooves.
Gris Klein is the album I needed to hear as I waited for the hurricane to hit my neighborhood in Florida. Storms come and go, and when it clears there will be a new set of problems and feelings. But no matter what life throws at you, it is best met when the soundtrack is an emotional hardcore album with a sense of adventure.
Label: Red Creek