War Honey, the multi-hyphenate five-piece band from Brooklyn, have blown every other promising young band out of the water with their debut EP Shard to Shatter, and their most recent single “Skinless,” a rumination on the past, present, and future blurring together as a result of the mind-numbing monotony of the pandemic.
Shard to Shatter was digitally released in December 2020 and was physically released on vinyl today via Handstand Records. I gave it a listen for the first time this past week and all I can say is Man. Was I late to the party.
This EP is an unpredictable amalgamation of sprawling ambient slowcore jams and bluesy existential shoegaze psalms that were recorded during the most stringent Covid lockdown periods of 2020. The titular opening track immediately draws the listener in with its spaced-out echoing soundscapes. Frontwoman Gabrielle Dana’s haunting melodies evoke the soulful passion of Ella Fitzgerald and the darkly desperate warbles of Chelsea Wolfe, enveloping the listener in a ghostly rapture as she croons and belts the lyrics “Not one more inch of my skin/Not one more piece of dream/Not one more shard to shatter.” Ben Fitts’ weeping guitar solo at the end sounds like it’s been submerged under water, heavily drenched in reverb.
“Even Sleep is Exhausting,” equally showcases Dana’s unrelenting passion and fury on the lingering traumas of sexual assault (“Invaders raging around my fortress/I don’t notice, I don’t notice.”) Her elongated vocal runs evoke the well-trodden vocal traditions of American soul against distinctly Western Gothic instrumentation by the band. Her ability to unwaveringly hold on to each note for an extended period of time is extraordinary.
The instrumental interlude “Psychopathic Performance Art,” is a terrifying intermission with cavernous psychedelic walls of sound. It sounds like the band is playing at a drug party in a lavish mansion shortly before descending into hell, ending with a sample of Tennessee reverend Jimmy Snow’s 1950s sermon where he claimed that rock ‘n roll was part of the devil’s plot to corrupt America’s youth.
On the final track “Landmine,” the vocal harmonies and guitar feedback cross-pollinate to create an almost suffocating sonic atmosphere. Rife with existential pandemic-wrought anxiety, Dana laments the gutted futures of generations to come whose oppressors use religion rationalize their behavior (“Oh what a cruel game/We all seem to hold to religion/It’s all just a scrimmage.”) It’s the perfect eulogy for a slowly decaying earth, an equally unsettling yet strangely comforting reminder of the impermanence of all forms of life.
Shard to Shatter is now available on vinyl via Handstand Records.
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