Review: Anti-Therapy EP by Concrete Armbands

I love eating out at new restaurants. Sampling different cuisines is one of life’s greatest pleasures. A recent visit to a Peruvian place was a chance to discover some unique flavours. A light, complex starter with multiple layers of taste and texture. A tasty, filling and wholesome, if somewhat heavy, main course. A delicious dessert platter loaded with a bit of everything.

And now, on a not completely unrelated note, here is my review of Sheffield band Concrete Armband’s Anti-Therapy EP.

Track 1: Satellites

My first thought on listening to this track was that it could be by Amanda Palmer, and I mean that to be taken as a definite compliment.  It is at once theatrical, tender, grand and emotional. Opening with an echoing piano, moving into an angelic, uplifting middle, with a heavenly music-box waltz and into a crescendo finale. The drums kick in, accompanied by a swirl of spacey sound effects, church organ, strings and ambient noise. You name it, Concrete Armbands chuck it at this song, but it works. Like something out of a rock opera, but in a good way. Despite the band citing Biffy Clyro and Muse among their inspirations, there is a Kate Bush influence to Satellites that I loved.

Track 2: …Like Russian Dolls

The sound is totally switched up for Track 2, with an 808 drum beat and guitar harmonics. Like vintage U2  disco dancing with The Cure.  It is colder and more distant than Satellites, which given the subject matter, makes total sense. This is a song about alienation and the modern condition, very much like its TV show namesake. When the guitar refrain kicks in, it is like watching a sunset over a post-apocalyptic techno-dystopia. This is more Depeche Mode or Kraftwerk than straightforward “rock”.

Technology is our anti-therapy

Because we talk better face to face

The raucous metal guitar riffs kick in at the end, putting me in mind of industrial electro-rock outfit Celldweller. I could imagine this song in a film score, it is very cinematic.

Track 3: Bud

The mood shifts again on Bud, with its jangly guitars almost sounding country. It is homely and comforting, which again reflects the subject matter. The singer is lamenting the awkwardness of reuniting with a childhood friend when your lives have taken divergent paths. It is an ode to nostalgia and innocence lost.

Look what this decade has done

Our lives are the same but without the fun

The thing is, I’ve heard this refrain and structure a million times. Half The World Away by Oasis instantly springs to mind. It is a sweet, touching, relatable song, but not one that will set the world on fire.

Track 4: The Brink

Back to the industrial rock sound for Track 4, with the buzzy, Muse-style bass and metal riffage. This is my least favourite track on the EP, but only because this genre is not my thing at all. It is very slick sounding, and the production values on the whole EP are high, but I would have preferred a more raw, aggressive sound. I feel like Concrete Armbands are angry, but they’re not quite sure what they are angry at. This is probably better experienced live.

Track 5: God Complex

The final track comes in four movements (I. Serenity Station, II. The Universal It, III. And the Music Gets Louder, IV. Ego Death). I listened in anticipation of a pretentious prog-rock extravaganza, but I was pleasantly surprised.

God Complex opens gently (serenity station indeed), but you can tell something is building. The nice little production touches throughout the EP; ambient noise, whispered voices, outer space squiggles and squelches, are all used to great effect in this track.

Once it kicks in, God Complex is Bowie-esque, albeit with an unfortunately cheap sounding synth. Then, at 3.27, here it comes. The heavy metal scream, the throbbing bass, the pounding drums. This is most definitely the “and the music gets louder” section. The track ends with a smooth, rolling guitar solo. Clocking in at an epic 8 minutes long, it doesn’t drag at all. God Complex is a suitably anthemic tune to end the EP, and, I would imagine, a great live set closer.

Overall, I did enjoy the Anti-Therapy EP. Not necessarily all to my own personal taste, but an exciting experience with some touches of the sublime.

Much like Peruvian food.

 

The Anti-Therapy EP is out on the 19th July and will be available on Spotify

You can find out more about Concrete Armbands here:

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