Guilty of Everything

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Lots of bands have picked up the shoegaze ball and run with it since the original bands flamed out in the early '90s. Not too many of them can say their guiding force spent time in prison for attempted murder or that their debut album was released by the resolutely metal label Relapse. Not too many of them ever released an album as good as Nothing have here, and 2014's Guilty of Everything is a truly impressive debut. Equally punishing and breathtaking, the album builds from singer/guitarist Domenic Palermo's undying love of My Bloody Valentine's Loveless and adds levels of toughness and power that most shoegaze bands never could quite manage. The rhythm section definitely has a past in metal, as bassist Chris Betts and drummer Kyle Kimball pummel their instruments mightily when the songs explode. They also show some nice restraint in the quiet sections and an expansive grace in the dreamlike parts. Over the top of the steel-built bottom, the guitars of Palermo and Brandon Setta grind and intertwine, setting fires and conjuring up lush waves of painful noise and wavering atmospheric haze. Their vocals are hushed and buried in the mix, with very pretty harmonies that wouldn't be out of place on a Chapterhouse record, though bands like that didn't have nearly the weight of Nothing. It's a time-honored sound and Nothing inject it with some real drama and emotion. When they aim for hushed and aching, like on the almost unbearably broken "Endlessly" or the morose "Somersault," they nail it completely and have listeners hanging on every note like it was the last one they'd ever hear. When they decide to put some motion into their emotions, they get hearts pumping in ways that call to mind the most active Dinosaur Jr. songs. "Bent Nail" and "Get Well" both fit this bill and serve to give the album some color and dimension to keep it from sinking too deep into despair's embrace. Guilty of Everything is a fully realized, deeply affecting album that is bound to make fans of shoegaze, dream pop, or noise pop stop in their tracks and be amazed. (And maybe even convert a few metal fans who buy the record by accident.) It takes the tropes and traditions of those styles and totally owns them, while singing about life experiences that most sheltered gazers will likely never experience, but still making them sound relatable enough so that anyone who has ever suffered will understand. Forget about shoegaze or metal or noise rock or any other genre; this is stark, dramatic music that comes from pain and has been crafted into high art that will move and inspire listeners lucky enough to hear it.

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