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May 2021
Album review

Closer - Within One Stem

The derelict beauty of 'Within One Stem' shines.
Label: Lauren Records
Released: 12th March 2021
Rating: ★★★★★
Closer - Within One Stem
Published: 10:21 am, March 18, 2021Words: Rob Mair.

"Everything is politics", said the novelist Thomas Mann. Never has such an argument felt as fitting as it does with Closer's second album, 'Within One Stem'.

Superficially, it's a record inspired by science-fiction that also tackles themes of grief and isolation – ideas which don't necessarily lend themselves to political discourse. But Closer are as much driven by the subtext as they are by what's happening on the surface.

It means much of 'Within One Stem' is operating on different levels, discussing social ills through allegory and simile, all propelled by vocalist Ryann Slauson's desperate yell. Due to the complexities, it's not a stretch to call this postmodern screamo; a heady mix of political discourse, misdirection and art-school smarts. Or, more pertinently, At The Drive-In reciting the sharpest of Kurt Vonnegut prose.

Like ATD-I, it rocks too; opener 'Ruins In Reverse' hits a groove and mines it for repeated gold, while 'New Refused' and '937' dig deep to find filthy riffs that shudder into the briefest of life. Meanwhile, the outstanding lead single 'Angry Flood' stretches their chaotic hardcore past the five-minute mark with devastatingly beautiful effect.

Throughout, there's a casual, organic ebb and flow; at times tumultuous ('Pawning A Laugh'), at others serene. Sometimes, like on mid-point 'Divide', they mix the two together with abandon. There's forensic attention to detail at every turn, ensuring every agitprop polemic remains cohesive through the music and lyrics.

If all this sounds heavy going, fear not. There's a knowing humour to 'Within One Stem', which helps soften the discourse. Track titles riff on bands ('New Refused') or spell out where they exist on the album ('Divide', which is the literal mid-point on the record). Elsewhere, there are chopped up references to 'Alien', 'Blade Runner 2049' and 'The Expanse', all used as jumping-off points for the broader discussion points. It's here, in these moments which mix meaning and metaphor, that the derelict beauty of 'Within One Stem' shines.

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