Old Gray’s ‘Slow Burn’ is Music for a House on Fire

Old Gray have revived a turn-of-the-century screamo style akin to Orchid or early Saosin

old gray slow burn

The burning house on the cover of Old Gray’s Slow Burn (listen below) captures the album’s two moods: light as smoke and reckless as flames. The New Hampshire screamo trio’s second record is dense with harsh screaming stoked by guitar octaves and melodic piano. Old Gray jumps in and out of songs like there’s a leaving train; the track ‘Razor Blade’ clocks in at 29 seconds. Slow Burn‘s first five songs average a minute in length each and still manage to pummel the listener with drums and left-turn tempos.

The album’s stories of grief are somber and minimalist throughout. The second half includes mood-builders ‘i’ and ‘ii’ – staccato piano chords with single-finger melodies. Recited stories become a journal with the looming swell of a band rehearsing in the next room. On ‘a letter for zach’, the introduction in the liner notes (“I wish this record didn’t have to be written”) begins to take shape. This song, spoken and sung, is a eulogy.

The moods of the record – fast and snarling, short and balanced – change as much as the smoke and flames. This is true of the late-nineties screamo bands that Old Gray draws from, like Orchid and the Idea Men (vocalist Anthony Green told Culture Creature about the latter’s influence on Saosin during a 2016 interview). These bands employed a leveling sound, a post-punk cacophony of scraping guitars and wailing vocals.

Cameron Boucher, also of Sorority Noise, and Adam Akerman never thrash on guitar and bass, and Charlie Singer drums up the walls but never through them. Arpeggiated guitars and sliding bass lines intercept and crash, but never seem tangled. The songs get intense and you might even want them to tear apart even more. Ultimately, the balance is there. The instrumental closer, ‘on earth, as it is in heaven’, is music as a force, like weather, washing, clearing. It is night music of a storm coming, rolling to a drumming crescendo and returning the listener to the burning home where both light and dark share the same space.

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