The recent wave of screamo influenced hardcore has made its mark and gained its following; and admittedly, I’m one of those followers. But now that the initial smoke has cleared, imitators are lighting their fires. And sadly, it’s gotten all too easy to be cynical in the face of new music. With Blame & Aging I was expecting to hear another Touche Amore sound-alike, but instead got a band with their own distinct sound and unique perpetuation of their influences. We Were Skeletons doesn’t sound that far from the likes of Amber Inn or Orchid, but, they temper their raw, emotional output with an experimental, bass heavy sound reminiscent of Fugazi. The result is a mixture of the dissonant and melodic, that boils down to a technical sound that doesn’t feel cold and dispassionate.
Musically, one of the most impressive songs on Blame & Aging is “King of Tricks”– a musically adept mix of loud and soft with impressive riffage throughout. Palm mutes lead into plucked melodies, with the bass carefully anchoring it all. The track ends with the beautiful sound of both guitars playing a soft interlocking melody. The musicianship on Blame & Aging is incredible throughout, but it’s the title track that truly shows just how much music can speak– deftly expressing a sense of distance through its composition; sounding something like the clean, apocalyptic arpeggios of early Amebix. The track is completely instrumental, but encapsulates the album’s title with ease.
“Disease Artist” is an aggressive song that begins with guitars chugging determinedly. Intermittently, the tempo changes and the six strings chime with trebly arpeggios. But the lyrics bring the song to life, both vague and exact in its imagery, but esoteric in its detail. It’s a beautiful song that extracts strong emotion from everyday self-loathing. The song culminates with this: “Magic tones crackling ancient twenty-three-year-old bones/ Ghost muscle aching, pavement fitness failed weakens hopes/ Drunk off the drinking that just spills out of my mouth and down to the floor/ Stained carpet caked with every last stolen cigarette smoked when I’m bored.” In a genre where you can seldom understand the words the music carries, it can be tempting to disregard their meaning entirely and compose with only syllables and rhyme in mind. But clearly this isn’t the case, as We Were Skeletons paint a self-deprecating picture of twenty-something aimlessness, and the false sense of romance that comes with it.
We Were Skeletons is an intelligent band with clear command over both composition and their instruments. I would imagine screamo fans will be quite pleased with this release, relishing every melodic bass line and loud dissonant guitar chord, but for others it might be a stretch. Blame & Aging is filled to the brim with music that you can feel resonating in your bones for days on end. Simultaneously visceral and contemplative, We Were Skeletons represent a nearly forgotten genre’s still beating heart.