For Fans Of
Our world is currently experiencing the highest number of displaced people since World War II. According to the UNHCR (The UN Refugee Agency), in the world today, there is an estimated 22.5 million refugees, with over 64 million people forcibly displaced from their home due to conflicts around the world – figures that are as recent as late 2016. (You can read UNHSC’s 2017 appeal update here).
In fact, last year, the 11th United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Italian diplomat Filippo Grandi, said in a statement that: “…each year, UNHCR seeks to find a glimmer of hope … to show that the world is finding solutions to help heal the trauma refugees are living through on a daily basis. But this year the hopeful signs are hard to find”.
You and me both, Grandi.
Across regions of Sudan, Iraq, Nigeria, Yemen, Syria, Rohingya (a country I’d never even heard of prior to researching for this review), and the Central African Republic (CAR), people are fleeing their homes due to religious/ethnic persecution and the very real threat of death. They flee their homes with nothing but whatever they’re physically able to carry and often, just the very clothes on their backs. Those who are killed or cannot leave flee in hope of finding safety in countries like our very own Australia, crossing great distances for the slim chance of sanctuary and a better life; hoping to be one of the supposed 16-17K refugees our government reportedly allows in each year. Lest they’re sent back to almost certain death or placed in our nation’s offshore detention centres for god knows how long.
Getting closer to my actual point here, at my factory/warehouse day job, my employer is required to employ a certain number of refugees every so often from those aforementioned regions that enter Australia, and I’ve worked alongside these people at various times. Because that’s what they are – people. Not numbers or mere statistics, but people; with their own history, hopes, dreams, passions, talents, losses, mistakes and loves. Sure, their English and numeracy skills aren’t always the best but they’re kind folk and they work hard just like anyone else there and that’s what matters. Because beyond the controversies, beyond the media headlines, beyond the politics of it, beyond those hope-destroying statistics listed above, these people are human beings just like you and me.
These real human tales of suffering unfathomed loss, of fighting for survival, of fleeing one’s poverty-stricken and turmoil-ridden home to distant lands in the faint hope of a better life is at the narrative core of Statues powerful, immense new LP, ‘No Grave, No Burial’. Very few heavy bands are talking about these issues, and if they are, they aren’t doing it as well or as deeply as Statues have done here on their amazing second record.
Statues chaotic, darkened, and borderline disturbing hardcore sound is the perfect musical accompaniment for the chaotic, dark, and indeed disturbing story that their new record’s narrative tells over its nine songs. It’s one that begins with war and conflict, followed by flight, horror and fear, punctuated by the album’s character(s) experiencing life-changing loss and crushing hopelessness before eventually, finally, finding some kind of sanctuary. Well, hopefully.
Recorded entirely in-house and produced/mixed by the band’s own bassist, Matthew Templeman (who has done a bang-up job of making the band’s sonics air-tight here) and mastered by long-time collaborator, Simon Struthers (The Love Junkies, The Decline), ‘No Grave, No Burial’ sees Statues performing at their finest hour yet.
The last record we saw from Statues was 2015’s most excellent ‘Together We’re Alone’ LP, which I still have a lot of love for since my high-praising review was first published. Now, that particular record showed off the Perth band’s skill and deep love for their key musical influences; Botch, The Dillinger Escape Plan, The Number 12 Looks Like You, Norma Jean, The Chariot and the like. But that album did so in an honourable fashion with the band also finding their own sound in some ways. That idea is taken to it’s a higher, more fruitful level with ‘No Grave, No Burial‘ as Statues further expand upon that sound gloriously so, ensuring their music isn’t just a one-dimensional take on the old guard hardcore and metalcore bands from the early and mid-2000’s.
From the album’s crazed opener ‘Collapse’ to the dense, spine-chilling closer of ‘Sanctuary’, much of those above sonic ideas return – the brutally unhinged screams, the jagged and angular guitar riffs, the incredibly tight rhythmic patterns; all the good shit. But Statues take on more subtle textures of melody and atmospherics throughout this release to create eerier, creepier moods and tones that perfectly reflect the record’s bleak subject matter without losing any of their sonic impact. Not only this, but the quintet do so all the while crafting an even more intensive, more emotional sound for themselves in the process. Considering just how bloody ferocious some of their past material is, that’s a fucking achievement and a half!
I found that the most jaw-dropping and most sublime moments of ‘No Grave, No Burial‘ – a record that’s a real rollercoaster front to back – arrive within the runtimes of ‘Collapse’; the scathing nature of ‘Unrest’ (which recalls the likes of ‘Affliction Prescription‘ and ‘Abide‘); the immense oceanic waves of loss heard in the title track; the uplifting melodic sounds heard in ‘Onwards To The Sun’; the graceful lyrical and musical shift from depressive to hopeful on ‘Dirge‘; and the absolutely beautiful interlude piece ‘–’. (Jesus Christ, try googling that one).
Actually, speaking of the latter song, and in what I think helps closer position the regional and ethnic perspective of this record’s narrative, ‘–‘ is an instrumental Eastern guitar piece that melodically evokes an Islamic call to prayer, or an Azaan if you wanna get super technical. It’s an utterly gorgeous little piece and an interlude that works so much better than the band’s past attempts at album interludes, like ‘I Want Peace‘ (a soulful, bluesy hand-clap track) and ‘Hope Is‘ (a brief acoustic track), both sandwiched between caustic hardcore cuts.
Strong narrative and terrific songwriting aside, Statues as a musical unit have also never sounded or performed better. Especially vocalist Alex Shom, who really comes into his own vocally and lyrically across this record; something that the band’s 2016 single ‘Dogswamp’ didn’t fully display, I found. Vocally, Shom matches the sheer intensity of the groovy riff and melodic lead interplay of guitarists Scotty Kay and John Overthrow (man, what a fuckin’ name) and the insane drumming from young powerhouse skin-hitter, Matt Unkovich, as Shom swings his voice from tortured low growls, to incredibly pained mid-range screams and throaty, vicious high shrieks. All of which reinforces his amazing lyrics; lyrics that are more direct, more brutal and far less metaphorical than the band’s past work.
Seriously, the frontman’s lyrics also do not pull any punches as they cover so many ranges of emotion, nor does Shom restrain himself in the way he delivers said words either. Ergo, below are what I feel are the most unfiltered, poignant examples of this record’s stellar lyricism, nailing the wider tone, real-life feelings, grisly thoughts and the bleak human experiences that inspired this release’s creation:
“Fighting back the tears/with you in my arms/I shake your body/but there’s no response“, and “What’s a boy to do/I had to leave you behind/…Please forgive and see/I couldn’t take you with me” (the title track);
“I’ve walked through fire and slaughter and got a taste of hell/I won’t forget dead faces; I won’t forget the smell“.
“Had my life collapse in front of me/saw my father fall to his knees/and in the rubble I only struggled/Oh what I’ve seen with these eyes/longing for the day when the bombs aren’t the sunrise“.
“If I turn around does that resolve my guilt/To return to all the blood that’s been spilt?”
“What’s worse, a loaded gun or a loaded question?/A loss of life, or some reflection?”
“We’re waiting to surface and drown in each other/I’m dying right here beside my brother/As I stop to remind myself and rewind back the time/I will never be free inside your sanctuary“, and “Your salvations just a lie, ain’t no escape from fear. Just waiting for us all to die I won’t die here“.
If there’s anything that hits as hard or even harder than Statues incendiary music, it’s their lyrics. Then, when you then take all of this and couple it with Templeman’s stellar mixing duties (also bringing his own bass work suitably into the record’s overall sound) ‘No Grave, No Burial‘ shines and gleams like a true winner on every single account.
With nine gripping songs over the course of thirty-three caustic minutes, Statues effectively encapsulate the horror, pain, and injustice of our world’s current refugee crisis with a fittingly bleak narrative and a truly chaotic hardcore aesthetic. Now, some people may ask why Statues feel that they’re experts or as five white dudes from Perth why they’re able to speak on such harrowing matters, and to that, I sarcastically say, “Yes, how fucking dare anyone write about things outside of their own experiences” and “How dare prog-metal bands talk about spacey shit when they’re not even real scientists”. Because the truth is that Statues have tackled a weighty, brutal topic in just the right way, with just the right kind of emotion and with real nuance; discussing something so much bigger than themselves and their band’s music in a meaningful way.
Of course, writing a record like this doesn’t actually do anything to change the global situation of those staggeringly hopeless numbers I mentioned at the very start of this review. (Unless Statues donate portions of the record’s sales to charity or play some benefit shows). Yet the first step in any kind of worldly or local change – both that of the mental and the tangible – comes first with learning and a sense of awareness. Besides, even if you personally don’t do anything towards helping out refugees whether those detained just off own shorelines or those struggling on the other side of the globe (and hey, no judgement here), at least you’ll have an incredible record on your hands.
4.Onwards To The Sun
6. No Grave, No Burial
‘No Grave, No Burial’ is out Friday, November 10th. You can pre-order the record here. If you read this whole review, you’re the real MVP.
[As per the topic of this record and if you can spare funds, here’s s some refugee charities you might like to donate to in order to help those in dire need around the world: UNHCR, Refugee Council Of Australia, Friends Of Refugees and the Syrian Crisis Appeal].