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It takes an immense amount of talent and emotional investment to write an album as brazenly stripped back and fervently exposed as Old Gray’s An Autobiography. A band that remained relatively disregarded in 2013, Old Gray aren’t hiding behind hooks and noise, they’re relying on the bare bones of their sound for the crux of this record. Last year, we saw Touché Amore’s Is Survived By achieve something similar, but An Autobiography accomplishes a subtle ache and tenderness not seen in Touché’s more belligerent post hardcore spin.
The first track on the record is ‘Wolves.’ Much like the light rain before a storm rolls in, the instrumentation begins in a slow and calming fashion, later joined by the concentrated chanting of the words, ‘I’ve been digging a grave with the parts of my brain that still work/they’re burying me with my dead dreams.’ From here, the rolling guitar riffs drop to let in a hysterical, banshee like scream that imitates the skin being ripped off the bones of the track. Much like the EP itself, the whole song drifts erratically from calm, to hysterical, and to calm again, and it’s unnerving and exhausting all at the same time.
On ‘In Coventry’, the musical production is breathtaking, with every note possessing a delightful clarity, and the slightly overwrought, admittedly unpalatable vocals, sound crystal and raw as a result. Along with the raucously sporadic, ‘The Graduate’ it’s a song that releases all of the anger in the record. More than that though, the track is about determination and desperation.
This is apparent as well as in the quieter spoken word track, ‘Show Me How You Self Destruct,’ and later again in ‘I Still Think About Who I Was Last Summer.’ Often thrown in as an embellishment between tracks on some recent records, spoken word can often very fall short of the quality it demands, but Old Gray are painfully sincere in every moment.
Subtle female vocals join the harsher male vocalist in ‘Emily’s First Communion.’ The softer tones serve to alleviate the sound of the track for a moment, before both the male and female vocalists harmonise in hysterical screams. The female vocals sounds at times like birds squawking, but points have to be given to the band for trying something that is rare, if completely absent, in post-hardcore.
Truly the calm after the storm, final tracks ‘I Still Think About Who I Was Last Summer’ and ‘My Life Without You, My Life Without You’ are incredibly powerful, but in a way that is, with the quiet drumming, trickling guitar melodies and climbing violins, soothing and achingly melancholy.
An Autobiography is an impressive achievement. Old Gray approach their song writing with an honest intent, and a willingness to express themselves without restraint, and this has made all the difference. More raw and emotionally vibrant than much of the records in the same genre released last year, An Autobiography is intriguing and all consuming, and above all deserving of some serious attention in 2014.
2. In Coventry
3. The Artist
4. The Graduate
5. Emily’s First Communion
6. I Still Think About Who I Was Last Summer
7. My Life Without You, My Life Without You