A Brief Crack of Light

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Determined to hold on to their status as Northern Ireland's most raucous rock act, Therapy?'s 13th studio album, A Brief Crack of Light, shows that 23 years into their career, they can still pack a hefty punch. Produced by Adam Sinclair (New York Dolls, the Unthanks) and frontman Andy Cairns, the follow-up to 2009's Crooked Timber may be named after an existential quote from Russian novelist Vladimir Nabokov and packed with reflections on "the absurdity of human life," but it's hard to focus on their poetic intentions when they're set against such deafening layers of noise. There are times when they threaten to reach the heights of their mid-'90s heyday, such as the metallic grooves and rousing chorus of "Living in the Shadow of a Terrible Thing," arguably their greatest lead single since "Stories" and the buzzing riffs and propulsive beats of "Stark Raving Sane," whose venomous lyrics suggest the bandmembers are anything but. But despite a more experimental approach on the likes of "Marlow," which intersperses its percussive prog metal sound with anthemic chants and bursts of distortion, and the unsettling breakneck-speed industrial rock of "The Buzzing," the relentless abrasiveness lessens the impact that the likes of the psych-punk of "Plague Bell" and the anguished "Before You, with You, After You" otherwise would have had, with only the heavily vocodered space rock of closer "Ecclesiastes" coming close to the "Diane" or "Bowels of Love" that the record is crying out for. A Brief Crack of Light shows signs that Therapy? are capable of restoring their former glories, but its overall uncompromising attitude suggests they'll continue to remain a cult moshpit-inducing force for now.

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