Finnish quartet, Throat, are the definition of an evolutionary band. They started as a raucous noise rock outfit in the mould of The Jesus Lizard (see 2013’s Manhole), incorporated the dark post-rock of Swans on album number two (see 2018’s Bareback), and approached their 2021 LP, Smile Less, like Joy Division beefed up with the vicious audio assault of KEN Mode. Now, they’ve dropped the unhinged punk rock vocals and turned down the guitar distortion for a spot of goth-tinged misanthropy. The message on album number four is, “Bring back lockdown. Bring back isolation.”
Fans of the industrial fuzz moments of Smile Less will be pleased to discover a continuation of the jarring percussion approach on opener, ‘Negative Lite’. This swaps the ugly bass loops of The Body for the machine-grind of Skinny Puppy to celebrate the freedom of human isolation. The band call this their break-up album with the world. The outbreak of war in Ukraine and Gaza is just another symptom of a planet on the brink of barbarism. Let the ice caps melt. Stand aside as the climate crisis creates more refugees from central Africa. It will all disappear in the end. The thunderous tribal drums of ‘Heaven Hanged’ can be the calling shot to those ready to abandon all hope. Listen how the plectrum-chug of the bass guitar stalks the gaps like a reptile foraging for insects. Over it, a deep and ominous voice transmits like a gleeful prophecy. You can hear 1980s cult English band, Furniture, as much as contemporaries like Daughters, Anatomy of Habit and Lotus Thrones. It’s a pleasure to analyse the different layers in such a minimalist concentration of instruments. Steaming guitars intensify at 03:10, but they never break out into the heavy gain synonymous with their previous records. You can sit back and meditate on this rather than lament the throbbing of your fingernails and ear lobes.
It’s always a risk to change direction, and Throat acknowledge that theirs is significant enough to prompt a reappraisal of their art. ‘The Transaction’ is not as cynical as the title suggests, but its musical textures impinge on the abstract rock of modern Swans and look towards The Cure for inspiration. Here, Jukka Mattila shows the full range of his voice by flipping from Andrew Eldritch (Sisters of Mercy) to a higher-pitch agitation closer to Robert Smith. Are they committing the grave sin of having fun with their sparkling synth motifs? They give you little time to weigh this up by following with the goth-friendly, ‘Trespassing’ – a song that owes more to Paradise Lost’s mid-90s obsession with Sisters of Mercy than Joy Division. The grungy bassline dominates this one but surrenders to the power of the guitar on the semi-distorted dirge of ‘Hearsay or Heresy’. You can hear Vulture Industries and even Faith No More (think ‘Cone of Shame’) in the lecherous busk of this stripped-down rock affair. Scraping palm-muted guitars grind chord accents like jaws snapping their teeth together as a melodic kettle whistle hovers in the background. ‘Tiny Golden Murder’ continues the hostile bass and atonal guitar experimentation.
Throat’s decision to scale back the guitars and focus the eerie elements of their music into abstract melodies deserves praise, but We Must Leave You is more impenetrable as a result. The timbres in the music blur like a watercolour spillage. Songs come and go like passengers walking through a busy department store as a shortcut to the carpark. They have no intention to buy anything, but the display shelves rouse their interest. I should buy that kitchenware next time I need an upgrade. Those leather jackets are well-priced.
Closing track, ‘Valedictory’, is Throat at their most naked, yet it intrudes upon the atmospheric power of U2’s ‘With or Without You’ as if reimagining it as a darker ambient piece with swirling feedback loops providing the closest thing to a melody. Listen to the U2 song after this one and see how much you can transplant Throat’s arrangement into Bono’s vocal lines. The resemblance is striking, yet it still sounds unique to the headspace of the Finnish quartet. Jukka Mattila sings his words with the fragile gut of Ian Curtis (Joy Division) even if your instinct is to chant, “And you give yourself away.” It’s a fascinating way to end an intriguing album.
Release Date: 27/10/2023
Record Label: Svart Records
Standout tracks: Heaven Hanged, The Transaction, Hearsay or Heresy
Suggested Further Listening: Anatomy of Habit – Black Openings (2023), Swans – Love of Life (1992), Black Math Horseman – Black Math Horseman (2022)