Frail Body – Artificial Bouquet

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Frail Body Artificial Bouquet review

The resurrection of screamo has been glorious to witness. And not simply for the impressive fact that some of the most famously, brutally ripped vocal cords have managed to recover themselves in the last two decades, especially the poor tissues of Jeromes Dream’s Jeff Smith, who returned in recent years alongside such forces as Amherst, Massachusetts wreckers Orchid. Yet the standards set by a new generation are applying some production paint to the original stripped-back blueprint that alienates listeners averse to noise and rewards fans of its unbridled chaos. 

Illinois’ Frail Body exhibits the full spectrum of this modern screamo juggling act. They thrive on the carnal effect of grating feedback roaring from amplifiers and thrashing through panic chords with clenched fists. But their playing style transcends pure emotional outburst into stylish runs, leaning into blackened metal territory, gems that can be picked out among the harsh surface coating all over Artificial Bouquet. It’s feel like a moment that unites the historic intersection of technical, mathematically intricate, and heartfelt extreme music—artwork from Converge‘s Jacob Bannon and production and mastering from Pete Grossmann and Jack Shirley (collaborators of Weekend Nachos and Deafheaven respectively)—and acts as a trailblazer for the genre in both reclaiming its glory days and creating new ones.

Artificial Bouquet is titanic in sound, an astonishing achievement for three members (much like contemporaries Birds In Row) and exhibits anguish no matter how crushing or soft the dynamics. The whole course flits between both, often multiple times in one song, marking the trio’s command for hushed scene-building to proficient bouts of pandemonium; lead single “Refrain” feels like a rope that’s at once taut and slack within mere seconds, as vocalist Lowell Shaffer throat-shreds his way through a tale of life’s ebb and flow culminating in troubling later years. The somber turn unveils itself on “Devotion” too, a multi-suite gothic post-rock centerpiece that bops in waves toward Shaffer’s beautiful leads, shimmering with a more hopeful gleam in its climax.

The album as a whole moves gracefully, even in the moments composed of face-ripping blastbeats. The breathless back-to-back of “Scaffolding” and “Berth” pick out pummeling cymbals from amongst the saturation-drenched tremolos, with drummer Nicolas Clemenson rarely relenting save for some groove that’s also prevalent on “Monolith.” Though every rhythmic switcheroo is short-lived, each grants everyone timely opportunities for the spotlight. Nic Kuczynski’s bass swerves from plodding to bitingly-sharp across “Critique Programme,” speedily zig-zags across the neck on “No Resolution” and powerslides under Shaffer’s element-battling Rickenbacker for emphatic closer “A Capsule In the Sediment.” Even in unison they’re tightly locked and loaded, as on the impressionistic first-half of “Runaway.” 

Sequencing the rawness next to the beauty throughout Artificial Bouquet’s tracklist makes the small moments of respite feel agonizingly brief, and the emphatic pummeling all the more leveling. Even after its most uncompromising moments, the record’s sonic tension leaves the remaining emotional release up to the listener, and it’s pretty tough to avoid exercising the conflicting anger, sorrow and triumph rolled into this one package. That underlines the sonic DNA of emotionally-charged hardcore after all, and in Frail Body, its revitalized story seems firmly in capable hands and screams.

Label: Deathwish Inc.

Year: 2024

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Frail Body Artificial Bouquet review

Frail Body : Artificial Bouquet

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