The Fifth Alliance – Death Poems (digital, CD [Consouling Sounds], cassette [Breathe Plastic Records, Diorama Records] 30 October 2015 / vinyl [Wooaaargh, Dingleberry Records, Grains of Sand Records, Monomentum Collective, Smithsfoodgroup DIY, Solitary Wolf (Vleesklak Records), Vinylaceton] 13 December 2015)
So here’s the part where I throw together some sort of introductory thing, greeting all the folks out there reading this, and along the way probably saying stuff like “ugh, it’s Tuesday, I’ve felt like I could fall asleep at any moment all day,” and then going off in some direction, complaining about something lame like the people surrounding me coughing and sniffling so much that it sounds like a hospital ward, or the fact that the stupid light above my desk is burnt out, or whatever. And then comes the part where I ask how your day has been, and then all of you skim through this whole paragraph and ignore my attempts at engaging a dialogue, and then you skip your way down to the important part — just below that photo down there where the discussion about music starts …
Today I’m going to talk to you about Death Poems, the second album by Dutch band The Fifth Alliance, who come from a city called Breda (right near the Netherlands-Belgium border). It seems, from my research that right now this area is primarily associated with DJs and electronic dance music. After you’ve finished reading this review, please share it with everyone you know, and maybe soon Breda will also be recognized for the incredible desolate post-hardcore that’s being created there!
Death Poems contains four songs (two on each side), for a total of approximately thirty-six minutes. Most of the time they are fairly minimal: a single guitar starting out, faraway and echoey; then perhaps a second guitar, much more distorted than the first, will join and — not exactly mirror the first part, but loosely mimic it as they run through an arpeggio or riff together; the bass and drums might then ease their way into the mix, accentuating without overshadowing.
This construction will typically continue to build up very slowly, chugging ahead steadily, while sometimes taking on a darker or heavier tone — more of a doomy vibe to the riffs — and occasionally picking up the pace significantly with double-time drumming (such as later in the opening track “Your Abyss”) or even straight into blastbeats and blackgazey tremoloey guitars (for example, towards the end of the final song “Dissension”), but never sounding too complex or overwrought.
No, the music (with a few exceptions as noted) remains relatively uncluttered, laying down a dark and mournful foundation upon which to set the vocals. These are provided by frontperson Silvia Berger who enters rather inconspicuously within the first minutes of the first song, but soon jumps out in front of the din with a powerfully piercing hardcore-style yell. In time, this evolves into more of a scream, and remains so regardless of whether the backing music is in a more aggressive mode or it has scaled back to one of its quieter and more introspective moments. The contrast that this provides truly allows the pain and passion of the vocals — sometimes reaching a soul-wrenching level, or even further, the screams reaching near-blood-curdling heights at key points — to shine through, without being obscured among the instrumental parts.
“Your Abyss” official video:
This album can be downloaded here. The physical versions can each be ordered directly from the band right here, or see the bottom of this article where as many links as I could find have been provided for all of the labels associated with this release.
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