Georgia mathcore experimentalists, The Callous Daoboys (not The Dallas Cowboys, as your brain wants to say), look like a group of librarians, gambling addicts and metalheads. They answer to the genre tag of mathcore if you need something tangible to describe their art, but their music is a beast of its own that incorporates soothing multi-harmony pop and alternative rock among its chaotic hardcore hysteria. Now on their sophomore effort after the acclaim of 2019’s Die on Mars, the metal and hardcore establishments gaze upon the sextet as a possible new radical in the pantheon of heavy music. Add in a strong dose of abstract humour and irony, and you have, uh, a sheep dressed in a wolf’s clothing.
The Callous Daoboys make no secret of their love for Dillinger Escape Plan, and you can hear 1999’s seminal album, Calculating Infinity, all over opening track, ‘Violent Astrology’. This is savage music that utilises an arsenal of dissonant guitar chugs and whacky slide techniques through the cracked lens of Botch’s staccato bludgeoning. Carson Pace screams every note as if pre-empting a nosebleed. It’s like the body giving one last spasm before the stress and exhaustion condemn it to a prolonged period of shutdown. The zapping space invader effects at the end are as welcome as the Mr Bungle middle-eight of suave keyboards and chirpy vocal melodies. People disillusioned by the anti-climactic break-up of I Wrestled a Bear Once will marvel at the spleen-rupturing screams and sporadic blast beats of follow up, ‘A Brief Article Regarding Time Loops’. The chaos here has a confident finger on the reset button, but the band leave the dial on a strange combination of art-school indie pop and the vicious hardcore of Deadguy.
You’re right to wonder if Celebrity Therapist will emancipate beyond a homage to Dillinger Escape Plan after track three (‘Beautiful Dude Missile’), but The Callous Daoboys come into their own on ‘Title Track’, where they start with the fury of mathcore and transform into the poignancy of art rock in the twitch of a finger. Listen how they combine a dual-harmony of female soprano vocals and husky male baritones in the transition to the clean-fretted guitar arpeggios and atmospheric keyboards. The group describe some parts of their music as Panic! At the Disco being slapped around by Glassjaw, but this is more like Arcade Fire in the firing line of Coalesce. ‘Field Sobriety Practice’ is another leap into the unknown with an intro that could be from a Barenaked Ladies album and a mid-section that can only be described as a bohemian take on tough guy hardcore. “If in doubt, throw everything in and see what comes out,” is the motto here.
Carson Mace has a lot to say on this album, and most of it is cryptic and impenetrable. The band’s image suggests they read the New York Times and drink fairtrade coffee in cafes with gender neutral lavatories, but don’t be so quick to judge them. The lyrics to ‘The Elephant Man in the Room’ read like a Hugh Selby Jr short-story with conventional punctuation, yet this is the most hardcore song on the album and would be easy to digest if not for the weird Barbie and Ken moment leading up to the free-jazz freakout at one minute fifty seconds. French stand-up metallers, Psykup, come to mind here.
If the album started as a Dillinger Escape Plan party-smasher, it does not end like one. The heavier songs on the second half of the record suck you into an illusory vortex, yet you can hop and skip through the cyclone at any time without a scratch. Closing track, ‘Star Baby’, hesitates to be a brattish punk song but settles on the indie disco noise of the early 2000s for its pulse and hammers through it with a hysterical mathcore convulsion. Now you can hear Panic! At the Disco, and it’s not as horrible as you’d expect. Adjust your ear and you’ll detect the golden pop of Mr Bungle in the California era with the splendour of a saxophone and the croons of a barbershop quartet. It might leave you sniggering, but Celebrity Therapist is a demented record with a multitude of different personalities. The Callous Daoboys prove here that chaos can make for coherent entertainment.
Release Date: 02/09/2022
Record Label: MNRK Heavy
Standout tracks: Violent Astrology, Title Track, The Elephant Man in the Room
Suggested Further Listening: Dillinger Escape Plan – Disassociation (2016), I Wrestled a Bear Once – Ruining it for Everybody (2011), Psykup – Hello Karma! (2021)