Release DetailsLABEL Deathwish Inc
RELEASED ON 5/25/2010
This Sheltering Night
posted on 8/2010 By:
Let’s call it the Philadelphian Metalcore Curse.
When you think about it, how else could you explain Starkweather? Or Turmoil and (early) A Life Once Lost? Maybe it’s my Philly-raised inferiority complex talking, but the city’s crop of influential 90s and turn-of-the-decade metalcore acts have always received disproportionately little attention. Given the influence that these groups exerted over latter-day stalwarts, their catalogs molder in baffling obscurity.
But as most Philadelphians will acknowledge, the city itself is responsible for just as many of its misfortunes as cosmic injustice (or Willie Penn’s hat) is. The same rule applies to Starkweather. This long-running (their hugely influential LP Crossbearer dropped in 1991), often-brilliant band has always preferred the shadows to the spotlight. After their 1995 release Into the Wire, they disappeared for a decade while preparing the follow-up Croatoan. Even now, as Starkweather releases perhaps the most complete realization of their elaborate vision, the band rarely gigs and does little to draw attention to themselves.
Perhaps that very obscurity is part of Starkweather’s appeal. Metal and hardcore fans have always been drawn to the occulted as much as to the occult. The intense emotion we crave is a necessarily individual experience, and knowing that you’re one of a select few intensifies that experience. So we love our genre mainstays, but often our most cherished musical ‘possessions’ are hidden gems and basement-dwellers.
This effect may have no bearing on Starkweather’s reclusive behavior. Nonetheless, it certainly lends credence to the churning, tribal darkness of This Sheltering Night.
This album is thick. It sweats and swelters. The musk of Starkweather’s practice space virtually invades your nose alongside the queasy opening riff of “Epiphany.” Even when the band accelerates from their trademark lurch to a trot, there is a sense of moving in dreamlike slow motion. Vocalist Rennie Resmini’s voice seems to gurgle up past a throat full of roofing tar. His remarkable range—choking rasps, murmurs, corrupted singing—lends This Sheltering Night some of its finest moments, like the unforgettable layered climax of “Broken From Inside.”
Starkweather doesn’t trade solely in unpleasantness. At times, bright—almost uplifting—melodies battle up through the heaving discordance, driven by Harry Rosa’s masterfully tumbling drums. Moments like the soaring midsection of “One Among Vermin” contribute valuable contrast and something that approaches listenability to an otherwise unapproachable album.
But such moments break through only briefly, casting scant sunbeams onto This Sheltering Night’s flat-light soundscapes. And always, we can feel the shadows closing in—leaden, dragging guitars; oppressive electronic throbs; impenetrable phrases chanted like mantras. Starkweather’s cult status may have nothing to do with any curse. Their music is alienating by design, and This Sheltering Night will scare off all but the most sludge-lapping listeners. But for us lucky few, Starkweather’s transcendent ugliness holds a beauty all its own.
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