Review of Worship Album by A Place To Bury Strangers

Having already released two near-flawless records, the first of which wasn't even intended to come out as an album anyway, plotting that next move or course in direction can be an arduous task. While 2009's 'Exploding Head' may not have been a big hit with the more tabloid end of the music press, its high ranking in many end of year polls on the blogosphere suggests those supposedly further down the pecking order of tastemakers took A Place To Bury Strangers second long player to be one of the finest guitar records produced this past decade. Add a growing reputation as one of the most ferocious - if not one of the loudest - bands on the planet and the seeds were surely sewn for album number three to catapult A Place To Bury Strangers into even more commercially viable circles, right? Well, not quite...

A Place To Bury Strangers Worship Album

Having seen their brief liaison with Mute Records come to an end shortly after the release of the third and final single off 'Exploding Head', lead Stranger Oliver Ackermann and his fellow bandmates were already putting the wheels in motion for its follow-up towards the back end of 2010. However, changes in personnel and a constant striving for perfection led to a number of demos being either re-recorded or scrapped completely, hence the reason 'Worship' has taken so long to finally see the light of day.

If the 'Onwards To The Wall' EP released earlier this year was meant to be a taster for the forthcoming album, it actually served as a proverbial red herring. Whereas sons like 'So Far Away' and 'Drill It Up' suggested an even harsher, brutal din than any of its predecessors, 'Worship' could perhaps be described as a largely experimental record by comparison, dominated by lyrics that seem to document an unhappy period in main creative hub Ackermann's life.

With his Death By Audio pedal sideline having become possibly the most reputable of its kind worldwide, Ackermann's willingness to try out some of his latest creations also dominates a lot of 'Worship'. Take the opener 'Alone' for example, which introduces itself by way of a heaving racket somewhat akin to having ones face scrubbed clean with a towel made from broken glass, or the disturbing hum of 'Revenge', where chainsaws were undoubtedly eaten for breakfast prior to recording and spat all over its prickly veneer in random despatches.

Of course its such mawkish brutality that serves as A Place To Bury Strangers unique trademark, so when the repetitive guitar loops of Can influenced lead single 'You Are The One' come into play they act as a marked departure from anything the band has released before. 'Dissolved' also twists and turns amid a salvo droning guitar and quivering beats, finally relenting from its heavy bludgeoning state into a discordant electronic trance for the final minute or so. "You say it's gone," declares Ackermann on the reflective but never subtle 'Fear', while closing number 'Leaving Tomorrow' revisits the ethereal whirl of Skywave that launched Ackermann's musical journey nearly two decades ago.

While not as immediate as either of its predecessors, 'Worship' revels in both consistency and ethos, two facets we've come to expect from A Place To Bury Strangers since their self-titled debut landed unsuspectingly five years ago. Caught between a rock and a hard place, 'Worship' may slightly disappoint those here for little more than their annual fix of sonic annihilation. For the rest of us however, it's a pensive representation of what is essentially a new band taking stock of their legacy before moving onto the next phase. Ignore at your peril.

Dom Gourlay

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