Look at any preview of the new Therapy? album ‘Crooked Timber’ and you will no doubt come across mentions of the band’s ‘change in direction’, such is the amount of attention that has been focused on the Northern Irish veterans’ approach on this album. And in all fairness, this is quite true although no Therapy? album ever really sounds the same as any of the others and what seems to be meant by this statement is in fact ‘it sounds very little like ‘Troublegum’. And this is definitely true. Try as they might, Therapy? will always have their subsequent releases compared to their big selling album, despite it coming out almost 15 years ago.
Opening salvo ‘The Head That Tried to Strangle Itself’ and ‘Enjoy the Struggle’ set the tone for the rest of the album very well and it’s clear from the start that Therapy? are not out to make us hum along to catchy melodies this time around but rather batter us into submission and remind us that not all is right with the world and that in fact, very little is right with the world and we might as well all start preparing for the end, such is the darkness of this album. With a nod to German philosopher Immanuel Kant’s take on humanity – “From the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made” – this is an album that invites you to immerse yourself in it and to really think for yourself. At times reminiscent of both the dark sentiment invoked by the likes of Paradise Lost and the angry noise of bands like The Melvins, the production is raw, the song structure disjointed but beautifully on purpose, and the vocals are at times frankly haunting (just try listening to ‘Exiles’ on a bright, summer’s day, it just doesn’t seem right for some reason) this is definitely not an album to crack out at the barbeques and the garden parties.
All the band are on fine form on this album, no more so than on ‘I Told you I was Ill’ which showcases some seriously fine displays of musicianship from the rhythm section of bassist Michael McKeegan and drummer Neil Cooper with more of frontman Andy Cairn’s swooping, haunting vocals lying superbly over the top of it all. However, not one to be outdone in the musicianship stakes himself, the next song ‘Sonambulist’ starts off with a monster of a riff from Cairns that Black Sabbath would be proud of, but the albums musical centrepiece is without a doubt the 10-minute instrumental ‘Magic Mountain’. Similar to the type of prog-metal that is currently achieving new levels of popularity thanks to the likes of Mastodon, encompassing a wide range of styles within one song with everything from punk to psychedelica, the track is the perfect example of a band making an album that they wanted to make, not for the radio or even for the fans, but for themselves. Therapy? aren’t known for their 10-minute long experimental compositions and this will come as a bit of a curveball to fans of the band but it undoubtedly proves that they can more than hold their own with many of today’s newer bands when it comes to pure musicianship.
closer ‘Bad Excuse for Daylight’ mixes the gritty, raw sound of many
of the late 70’s punk bands with the doom of Black Sabbath and is a
fitting end to what can only be described as a musical journey and not one
for the faint of heart. On first listen, the album is certainly impressive
and will no doubt be one that improves with every listen as the various
layers to the songs are uncovered but what is certainly clear is that
Therapy? are very much still alive and kicking and it would be a great
surprise after hearing ‘Crooked
Timber’ if this were to be their final album.
Review by: Adam G
1. The Head That Tried
To Strangle Itself
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