The fever pitch anticipation surrounding the release of Partycrasher is a testament to A Wilhelm Scream’s place in the punk scene. Their appeal operates on different levels simultaneously; but it all coalesces into music that is as nostalgic as it is progressive. I wouldn’t characterize myself as a devotee, but I would consider myself appreciative of what A Wilhelm Scream does and if pressed to name a band that does a better fusion of punk rock and extreme metal riffing, I’d have to concede that A Wilhelm Scream is indeed the best. Unfortunately, Partycrasher doesn’t feel like an album made by a band at the top of their game. Instead, feeling like an oddly perfunctory shadow of their legend, it seems to be album meant to be liked, rather than loved.
Partycrasher is nowhere near a bad album though, it just doesn’t blow you away. My first listen went by without me finding a single thing to pick out; nothing aggressively bad, or good for that matter. Just sound awash in a sea of ‘okay.’ On my third and fourth listens the stand-outs started emerging from the woodwork.
The first half of Partycrasher is actually pretty great, album opener “Boat Builders” trades the focus on technical fretwork for catchy anthemics (“We are the noisemakers, the modern wayfarers”). At nearly four minutes though, it does feel overlong, leaving the listener with the feeling that a shorter punchier track might have been a better choice as an opener. “Devil Don’t Know” has some great hooks too, and with a more palatable length comes out as a pretty strong track.
“Number One,” however, is the first truly great song on Partycrasher, carrying with it an intensity that the other tracks lack. It also features a handful of stand out lyrics, including this particular couplet: “Come on sing the words back to me/ We’re here for the beat and your company/ It’s so easy to write about sex and blood and all that shit I got no love for.” It’s a call out to punk’s positivity, not to mention emphasis on community– all emerging from a scene that celebrates aggressive rock music as catharsis. It’s a throwaway line permeated in the punk outlook, and one of the most revealing to A Wilhelm Scream’s perspective. The final track, “Born a Wise Man,” is perhaps the most balanced track on the album, teetering easily between their signature musical bombast, catchy melodies, and hardcore drive. A welcome return to form that shows off all of the band’s strengths while also serving as an excellent closing number.
Ultimately, Partycrasher falls short of the anticipation surrounding it. While it features some truly great highlights, and never lapses into anything inherently horrible, the tracks that don’t pop come off as white noise. Coupled with a re-emphasized take on their signature sound, this new A Wilhelm Scream comes off as competent and enjoyable, but rarely exciting.