In the past 10 years JR Robinson’s Wrekmeister Harmonies developed itself from an avant garde metal collective to a more atmospheric doom-folk outfit with changeable personnel. Wrekmeister Harmonies usually creates lengthy slow burning introspective compositions that end up in full tranquillity or the very opposite of that.
Nowadays multi-instrumentalist JR Robinson and Esther Shaw are Wrekmeister Harmonies’ only constant members. The outfit released various monumental works. 2013’s free improv death metal release You’ve Always Meant So Much to Me and the Charles Manson inspired It All Came Down from 2014 for example are seen as epic by many. Wrekmeister Harmonies’ last album was released two years ago. The Alone Rush came forth of personal tragedies and is deeply grim. A part of this grimness also plays a part on the release we are about to discuss. However, the outfit, who are now joined by Thor Harris (Swans) on percussion and Jamie Steward (Xiu Xiu) on electronics, also leave room for some sparse beams of light that shine through.
We Love to Look at the Carnage contains 5 songs and clocks in at 41 minutes. Esther Shaw sets the mood on the opener Midnight To Six. After a minute or so Robinson’s intense baritone takes over sharply contrasting Shaw’s soothing intro. Robinson narrates about lost time and missed opportunities as guitars, a violin start swelling around him. Second up is Still Life With Prick Cancer that more or less is the companion song to the opener. With +10 minutes it makes up one fourth of the album. For the most part the instrumentals meander between tension and calmness. Riffs bring in distortion at moments while violin play and Steward’s electronics bring in ease. Still Life With Prick Cancer is a restless balancing act of someone who is about to lose his mind.
The shortest track on the album is Coyotes Of Central Park which is strangely romantic. Acoustics crawl around Robinson’s voice who elaborates on seeing beauty in hope and endurance which he metaphorizes as moonlight that is slowly making place for the early stages of sunrise. Coyotes Of Central Park is a close listen when it comes to violin play and light use of synths but in the end is very rewarding. The Rat Catcher proceeds in a similar manner but brings the guitar more to the foreground. Halfway through the fierceness is cuts in with ripping guitars which also serves as lead in to the albums closer Immolation. After a relatively light beginning Immolation a slow riff starts demolishing Robinson’s world. But at the same time a Japanese sounding string is layered over the riff symbolizing hope. As the music intensifies Robinson starts preaching which eventually fizzles out with some droning.
We Love to Look at the Carnage is a typical Wrekmeister Harmonies that you have to look at holistically. The record again is emotionally-charged and continues the doom folk line of the last years. We Love to Look at the Carnage is an addition to the work of Swans, Godspeed You! Back Emperor and, if you are not that strict, Low, Nick Cave and Tindersticks. Of course it is up to you to pick your favorite poison but in any case give this Wrekmeister Harmonies a fair chance because it is at least a worthwhile listening experience.
Label: Thrill Jockey, 2020
- Midnight to Six (7:02)
- Still Life with Prick Cancer (10:33)
- Coyotes of Central Park (4:36)
- The Rat Catcher (10:21)
- Immolation (8:46)
Review by Wander Meulemans // 190320