Summing up the music of An Albatross is like trying to describe exactly what happened when the police took those batons to your head – flickers of impressions can be divined, but the whole picture is strangely elusive. Rather than breaking it down into components, all that can be described is the total experience. So when I say that the band's new album Blessphemy (Of the Peace-Beast Feastgiver and the Bear Warp Kumite) is the most bracing shot of aggravated chaos I've heard all year, I mean just that. And when I say that An Albatross plays the best damn synth/noise/dance/grind music you'll ever hear, I also mean just that.
You read that genre summation correctly. An Albatross exists within the noise-rock spectrum, but their approach is unique. The combination of buzzsaw guitars with swirling synth lines and the messianic shrieking of Eddie B. Gieda III results in a trippy, head-spinning amalgamation of abrasiveness and approachability; this is conceivably the first avant-grind band who can make you want to dance.
The band is, first and foremost, concerned with the aggressive properties of music many people would consider unlistenable. Make no mistake — they're here to make your ears ring and your temples throb. Songs like the nightmarish "Dimensional Gymnastics" or the brutal "Feastgiver" show that An Albatross can pummel your senses with the best of them. In these relentless assaults, guitarist Jake Lisowski gets to take front and center, and the rest of the band gets to keep up with him. But the band is also quite happy to incorporate disparate elements and influences, as well as highlight their more perverse elements, in order to achieve their intent.
What, for instance, are we to make of the pomp and circumstance of the prologue "In the Court of the Bear King" as it segues into "Lysergically Yours, My Psychedelic Bride?" Or indeed, what everyday noise-addict band would kick off their first full-length with a track like "Lysergically Yours," which contains traces of honest-to-goodness Southern boogie rock in its DNA? Only two tracks and three minutes into Blessphemy, it becomes clear that An Albatross is on their own program. There's something quite thrilling about that — the sense that you're not sure what you'll hear next.
Much of that can be accredited to bassist Jason Hudak and organist Phillip Reynolds Price. While Lisowski shreds his guitar strings, Gieda shreds his vocal cords and Edward Klinger thumps his drum kit to pieces, Hudak and Price keep the proceedings humming on a surprising layer of funkiness. "Hairobics" has the feel of an '80s pop song strung out on meth; meanwhile, "Sacred Geometry" carries a genuine disco-porn groove as its backbone. The importance of what Hudak and Price are doing, and by extension what the entire band is doing, is obvious yet still easy to miss: the more unusual elements that An Albatross includes as part of their sound make Blessphemy significantly more fun than much of their brethren. The music is violent, yet there's a sense of enraptured play within. It's as close as noise rock gets to pure joy.
Blessphemy is more than just a slab of noise — it's a communal experience. You'll want to share this with everyone you know, to sit them down and watch them wriggle and shake for twenty-seven ecstatic minutes. An Albatross, in their fits of divine inspiration, hand you two choices: listening to Blessphemy, you can swing your hips or start a pit. Either way, have fun with it.
Want a taste of An Albatross's mania? Oh, yes you do. Check their video for "Hairobics/The Ballad of the Electric Coyote" and see what that does for you.