Given how much time I spend feeling like life is a steel-jawed trap slowly crushing my chest it’s kind of funny that I should actively seek out music that approximates that very same sensation. Case in point: Great Falls, whose fifth album is a nerve-shredding and frankly obliterative experience, and yet one I have been returning to time and again.
Everything I’ve heard from this metallic noise-rock outfit has been impressive, but ‘Objects Without Pain’ sees them pushing through to another level in terms of intensity, craft and muscle-knotting tension. Each riff seems like a clenched fist attached to a jangle of raw nerves: ugly, screw faced, mean-spirited things that, for all the mindless blunt force trauma they inflict, are possessed of a surprising amount of cunning. Encountering Demian Johnston’s voice, meanwhile, is like unwittingly opening a door to hell. He seems to start at the point where most bands would be having their end-of-set meltdown, everything forever bulging outward and fizzing with the foul stink of stomach acid. It’s like that from beginning to end, and as hard as it is to endure it’s harder still to fathom just how the guy keeps going and going and going.
While the seething rage of it all frequently results in a sense of panicked airlessness, the band also exhibit a keen, white-knuckled grasp of space. These points where you can once again breathe are somehow more disconcerting than being roared at and clobbered, since you’re never quite sure how long it’ll be before everything erupts all over again.
If you’ve been following Johnston’s career – Playing Enemy, Kiss It Goodbye, Undertow, all of that – then you can rest assured that this fits comfortably within the same cheerless, unkind space. But to me there’s something more here, too. The fury and frustration are coupled with a sense of sorrow that gets into your bones like a chill just won’t shift. There’s a weariness to it, a resignation. A sense that, despite these eight songs representing an almighty systems-purge, nothing will change because of them and everything will remain as bad as it ever was. That’s a hard thing to chew on and an even harder thing to swallow, and the choices it leaves feel extremely limited: either keep ploughing on with your head down and your teeth gritted, or just… stop.