Article By: Pat ‘Riot’ Whitaker, Senior Writer/Journalist ‡ Edited By: Leanne Ridgeway, Owner/Editor
It seems our Chicago, Illinois sonic blenders of genre, ESCAPE IS NOT FREEDOM, have an affinity of some sort for the month of April.
That reality speaks for itself, for back in April, 2018, Riff Relevant reviewed a split release of theirs and dusK Village [HERE]. Nearly two years to the day of that review, ESCAPE IS NOT FREEDOM just released the full-length, ‘Surrounded By The Great Nothing‘, on… yep, you guessed it, April Fools Day (the 1st).
If you know anything about this trio – Mike (guitar, vocals), Darrin (drums), and Josh (bass, vocals) – you know there is no easy stylistic tag to slap on them. Sure, they keep it simple, stating they “blend elements of rock, sludge, and noise while incorporating melody and catchy riffs“. Yeah, okay, I’ll give them that, they are not lying or being deceitful about that knack of theirs. But, it can’t all really be that simplistic and bare bones… can it??!
Crap! I am not going to ponder that for the next undetermined length of time, no way. Instead, I am going to give you my two cents on their fresh, new, 10-song offering. What you do afterward with this wealth of insight is none of my business. ESCAPE IS NOT FREEDOM will give you the business, though, and it all begins with the hit of the “Brick“, the first slab of sound seeming to weigh every bit a ton or more.
A subtle intro start builds like a wall of feedback and fuzz until an earth rumbling bass line begins like a slow motion jackhammer. There is an almost industrial feel to the deluge of guided instrumentation soon cascading around you; it feels dark and it feels bleak. Godflesh-ian nuances are driven into your being like rivets, these pulsating rhythms and monotone vocals making sure to rob us of any hope in the process.
When I referred to this trio as “sonic blenders of genre”, that was not just idle chatter, and you will learn this with each new song. From the frenzied post-math metal meets new wave-psych of “Boomslang” to the heady, melodic-tinged post-hardcore of the fantastically chilling “Freezer Burn“. ESCAPE IS NOT FREEDOM are all over the musical map in this all-encompassing hit and run of audible emanations.
Truth is, I find the softer side of the band to be mesmerizing and alluring, it is something they shift into and out of with ease. One of the best examples of this here is the album’s longest track, the eight-plus minute “Leonard” is just powerful. Its slow roll-out start and restrained advance is reminiscent of something like Jesu, taking us through a maze of myriad emotional states. With its anguished vocals and deliberately intense-without-intensity music (for 3/4 of the song), I was soon feeling flashbacks of listening to Focused and Training For Utopia.
The journey through genre-based territories continues through the hazy alternative / post-rock of “Ruined Ground” and the proggy, psych-doom metal of “Underwater Birth“. It becomes clear that these guys just cannot help themselves when it comes to stirring, melodious fare like “Acid Blood“, the need to release it burns corrosively within them.
They dial it up just a notch or so for the album closing “Rhea“, but that is it, as we once again find ourselves in a spatial song. The room is needed, too, because you’re going to feel a variety highs and lows, of loss and, perhaps, gain. These vibes are derived from the commiserating music, sure, though many times throughout this album, this is helped greatly by Josh and Mike’s contrasting vocals. Each handles leads on a number of songs, some of Mike’s include “Brick“, “Freezer Burn“, “Leonard” and “Underwater Birth“. Then there’s Josh, some of his lead vocals grace “Boomslang“, “Ruined Ground“, “Acid Blood”, and “Rhea“, among others.
If you seek to better understand what I mean, then you absolutely must envelop yourself within, ‘Surrounded By The Great Nothing‘. Explore its wide expanses, feel the gamut of emotive reverberations created by ESCAPE IS NOT FREEDOM, as they will each resonate within you. You will be the better person for having done so, inspired by this trio’s creative enlightenment… trust me on this.