SKILLET w/, Red Gazelle & RedHook Big Top, Luna Park, Sydney Thursday 15th November, 2018 …
Music has always been used as an emotional vehicle in the search for answers to those big, lofty questions: Who are we? Where do we go after death? What is the nature of reality? They’re questions that are both timeless and recursive, with everyone from Buddhist monks, to Plato in his cave and old European gentry with specks, beards and cocaine habits having a crack at them over the last few thousand years of human civilisation. And with the release of their debut full-length album, Brisbane alternative/post-hardcore quartet The Comfort are certainly no exception to this endeavour.
If you want to know what you’re in for on this record, it’s all right there in the title. What It Is To Be is stepped in the larger-than-life (and some might argue, wholly pretentious) conversation around personal identity, existentialism and ontology. Opener Heavy Heart makes this clear from the outset, as vocalist/guitarist Liam Holmes softly croons about relishing in solace, being at odds with self-denial and finding himself “across the world trying to find out why.” Propelled along by the pounding rhythms of vocalist/bassist Dominic Harper and drummer Izaac Calrow, Holmes sings earnestly of his own depression and dread in the face of potential death. This reflection on existential malaise then slides expertly into lead single Dissolve, which by contrast, positively shimmers with radiant energy off the back of a shoegaze lead and soaring chorus line.
A beautiful, exhilarating and revelatory rock record that dives deep into our subjective journey for meaning, purpose and self-discovery in every-day life.
As the album continues to ebb and flow, The Comfort strike a natural balance between straight-forward song-writing and artistic experimentation. Misery, Solus and Reach Out function as typical alternative rock numbers, with soft/loud dynamics and delicate instrumental interplay between Holmes and guitarist Marcus Parente. Sitting at the record’s mid-point, Futures functions as a heart-wrenching mid-tempo ballad in the vein of early Jimmy Eat World, with Holmes and Harper weaving their distinct vocal patterns into rich and glorious harmonies. Overall, the album’s production from Sonny Truelove is superb, with each guitar line given adequate room to breathe, alongside a crisp and punchy snare/kick combo and Harper’s thrumming bass sitting high enough in the mix to give the instrumentals real body and depth.
There’s also a noticeable progression in material here from the band’s exceptional Love EP (2016), much in the same way that contemporaries like Thrice or Crime In Stereo would end up darker, broodier and more introspective with every release. However, this heady subject matter doesn’t come as a sacrifice to accessibility or appeal, with What It Is To Be featuring some of the strongest hooks from The Comfort to date. Always Tired is the most pensive composition on the album, eschewing traditional song structure for a deeply personal, tense narrative crescendo. Second single and album stand-out Die Alone finds the band at their most catchy, with a simplistic, driving beat from Calrow, Holmes’ incredible call-and-response chorus and a composition absolutely drenched in lush synths and keys.
The only minor misstep on the album comes on Breathe, which features a weird, forced vocal inflection from Holmes in the verses and bridge. While not entirely cringe-worthy, it is noticeably distracting and takes away impact from the otherwise powerful instrumental. Closer Sanctuary (La Busqueda Del Espiritu) ties up the narrative loose ends of the record, with Holmes’ spiritual quest for inner light amongst the darkness of his own mind. Despite being the longest on the album, the track springs with energy and tension off spiralling riffs and a crashing wash of hi-hat and cymbals, building to an outro plateau as climax that rests on lyrical exhalations of transcendence and letting go. As Holmes emphatically declares: “I’m not the sum of my mistakes/I’m not the sum of my past/I will last.”
More than simply the sum of its parts, What It Is To Be is an unashamedly holistic experience. It’s a beautiful, exhilarating and revelatory rock record that dives deep into our subjective journey for meaning, purpose and self-discovery in every-day life.
STANDOUT TRACKS: Die Alone, Futures, Sanctuary (La Busqueda Del Espiritu)
STICK THIS NEXT TO: Thrice, Jimmy Eat World, Crime In Stereo