Dark whispers: Local noise rockers So Stressed have come a long way the past couple of years. Not long ago, they were actively staying out of the spotlight. They even turned down an interview in 2014 because they didn’t want to be written about in SN&R. By 2015, they’d become a buzz band, and have since gotten press in Pitchfork, the AV Club and NPR. With the group’s third LP, Please Let Me Know, which comes out on February 17 on Ghost Ramp, who knows what’s next for them. One thing’s for sure: The group hasn’t toned down the intensity of their sound.
Please Let Me Know hardly marks a departure from their two previous efforts. All three albums were recorded by Patrick Hills at Earth Tone Studios, and have the same brutal, ass-kicking energy. The dissonant chords, screaming vocals and head-bashing drumbeats sound like the musical embodiment of an anxiety attack. But there is a subtle shift in the sound on the new record: The guitar tones are thicker, more organic, the opposite of the mechanical-sounding The Unlawful Trade of Greco-Roman Art. It could be just a recording decision, but the dynamics are much more severe. It’s almost more menacing when the group lowers its volume to a near-whisper.
So Stressed’s riffs are one of a kind. The noisy, dissonant jams are set to the impending heartbeat clock of death.
The fuller recording quality and more extreme peaks and valleys have a huge affect on the music’s mood. Singer Morgan Fox’s constant shouting seems more like a plea for help than the style of yelling found in earlier So Stressed albums: as if from the top of a mountain and exorcising personal demons. Now, Morgan’s screams have more intimacy. The opening lyric on the record hits you right in the gut: “I see you in the corner of my eye / Please don’t die.”
Please Let Me Know isn’t any more accessible than the group’s prior albums. But its visceral humanity will cut through to some listeners who normally tune out the second they hear someone screaming.
Metal mashup: When you think of metal or hardcore, the first associations that come to mind might be hard-hitting guitar riffs and raspy vocals—yet Sacramento band Horseneck breaks away from those expectations with its debut self-released album Heavy Trip.
A four-piece band composed of current and former members of Chelsea Wolfe and Will Haven, the lineup features Anthony Paganelli and Lance Jackman on guitar as well as vocals, Lennon Hudson on bass and drummer Jess Gowrie.
As the name promises, the record takes listeners through a musical journey of heavy sounds mixed with a variety of blues, electronic and ’80s hair metal music for an underlining layer of trippy sounds. The 10-song album kicks off with “Bird Worried,” which combines all of the aforementioned musical categories with both raspy and clean, soulful vocals—say, something between modern bands such as Deafheaven and Every Time I Die with a mix of old-school Black Sabbath. The song is catchy, complex and offers a strong introduction to the musical variety on the new release.
Songs like “Michael Caine” have more of a punk-rock feel with catchy drums, sultry bass lines, disgruntled time signatures and instrumental sound breaks. Despite the mashup of genres, songs like “P.A.G” do offer a traditional take on metal.
Other notable tracks include “Hangman,” a bittersweet song with a slow start and a burst of harsher notes—a pleasant contrast to the faster, high-energy songs. On the other hand, during “Lester Vitalis,” the band comes unhinged and takes listeners through a quick, gritty ride.
The album creatively ties together its disparate sounds into a constant flow. Overall, it mixes psychedelic notes, catchy punk tunes, a jazz-like vibe and, of course, heavy riffs.
This weekend, you can pick up Heavy Trip at Harlow’s Restaurant & Nightclub (2708 J Street) for Horseneck and Kill The Precedent’s double record release party (9 p.m. February 17, $10-$12). Or, visit https://horseneck.bandcamp.com/releases for a digital copy on February 17.