One of the techniques I find most satisfying in heavier types of music is the juxtaposition of calm moments with bone rattling cacophony, jumping from extreme to extreme with reckless abandon. The Chicago band The Flips are champions of this technique; rather than use the sound as a cheap crutch, they creatively weave the ebb and flow into their very being. Their full-length album A Harm Deep But Shining is a brilliant testament to this very statement.
“Intro” starts off quietly, focusing on building the mood with intricate lyrics and somewhat harsh vocals – but the next song, “I’m Okay,” is the first real glimpse into the subtlety with which the mood shifts from loud and vicious, to quiet and soft, and back again. The transitions are effortless, so much so that one might wonder if there was a sort of quiet psychosis involved in writing the music. (I will note, this idea only becomes stronger as the album carries on.)
“God, I’m Sorry” is a bit reminiscent of the style of bands like At the Drive In, with the wonderfully off tempo introduction. Whereas the previous song offered only snippets of the vocalist’s angrier notes, here he adds a far harsher snarl to his otherwise smooth vocals as his lyrics become more and more filled with rage.
“Jawbreaker” is the first song where the bass plays a part in the foreground, serving as mostly support in the previous songs. There are moments where the song quite literally explodes, and it feels like the wind has been completely knocked out of your chest – and there are moments where the song is heavy and thick as sludge, dragging you deep beneath the earth’s surface. I enjoyed hearing the vocalist emit his first full powered screams of the album and immediately wondered when they would appear again.
“Let It Go” is positively saccharine compared to the blistering weight of the song before it, but this works well in the scheme of the album as a whole, while “Gone” spoke to me in a very deep way, describing the dark feeling of sadness and depression with the lyrics while embodying the fury and burn of too much stress all in the same song.
Another stand out song, “Bees Knees” starts off with an intensely sweet, surprisingly intricate melody. Interestingly enough, while the song picks up considerably during the chorus, the instruments seem to lose some of their depth, playing nice with those gritty yells to take the song to a new level. The finale “There I Shook” opens with a gripping sadness, boosted with the accompanying acoustic guitar line. The last few moments end the album in the best possible way it could have ended, nailing the theme home.
We are typically warned of having too much of a good thing – but A Harm Deep But Shining is powerful enough to prove that you can fill an entire hour with the same overall idea, and still keep things interesting and entrancing.
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