So Stressed

The Unlawful Trade of Greco-Roman Art

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Some punk singers rant, some speechify, some growl, some hector, but if you're looking for someone who throws a full-on temper tantrum whenever he steps up to the vocal mike, your new hero is Morgan Fox, who handles lead vocals and synthesizer for the Sacramento, California band So Stressed. On the trio's first full-length album, 2015's The Unlawful Trade of Greco-Roman Art, Fox delivers a master class in world-class bellowing, sounding as if he's on the verge of complete physical and emotional collapse each time he finishes a verse, and when he declares in "Nervous Around Punks," "I just want to use my inside voice when I'm inside," it raises the question, does this man even have an inside voice? While the perverse, violent blast of Fox's vocals are enough to make The Unlawful Trade of Greco-Roman Art some sort of landmark, So Stressed's music is a perfect match for his larynx-abusing style. Guitarist Andrew Garcia and drummer Kenneth Draper tear into their instruments with a fury that generates a very real awe, minimal and crushing but with a stop-on-a-dime precision that would do any number of math rockers proud, while Fox's low-tech synth pumps clouds of ominous noise into whatever space still exists in these songs. And in the rare moments when the band simmers down, its quiet moments seem thoroughly ominous, the quiet before the 400-foot-tall reptile brings his foot crashing through your roof. So Stressed seem remarkably assured and effective on The Unlawful Trade of Greco-Roman Art, and for an album that's plenty chaotic from beginning to end, the fact the band can actually work up to a big finish on "Needs to Chill" confirms these lunatics really do know something about dynamics. Brutal, fascinating, and darkly funny, The Unlawful Trade of Greco-Roman Art is Primal Scream Noise Therapy for the 21st century, and if it won't solve all your problems, it will certainly make you feel a lot more grounded by way of contrast.

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