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Read any article or comment thread about the Seattle noise-rock outfit GREAT FALLS and you're likely to see descriptors like cathartic, heavy, crushing, and unhinged. Maybe even psychotic. And sure, those are all apt: For over a decade, vocalist/guitarist Demian Johnston and bassist Shane Mehling (who also played together in the early-2000s noisecore band PLAYING ENEMY and the experimental duo HEMINGWAY) have honed their sludgy, overwhelmingly intense brand of heaviness, punctuated by delectably discordant riffs, terrifyingly low, thwacking bass lines, and mesmerizingly tight percussion. In the live setting, too, they’re notorious for a stage presence that is so aggressively confrontational and menacing that Mehling once broke his own arm mid-set.
But the most striking aspect of GREAT FALLS, setting them apart from the murky sea of sludge metal and AmRep-inspired noise-rock bands, is their ability to paint a deeply, utterly human story through an all-out assault on the senses: an art the band has perfected on their fourth full-length album OBJECTS WITHOUT PAIN, out September 15 via NEUROT RECORDINGS. The album is not only their NEUROT debut, but also the first LP featuring drummer Nickolis Parks (GAYTHEIST, BASTARD FEAST), who joined the band prior to the release of their exhilarating, cacophonous 2023 EP, FUNNY WHAT SURVIVES.
OBJECTS WITHOUT PAIN takes us on a bleak, purgative journey through a separation – a snapshot of the turmoil and indecision that occurs after the initial realization of someone's misery, and before the ultimate decision to end a decades-long partnership. From the foreboding intro riffs of “DRAGGED HOME ALIVE” to the end of the 13-minute closer “THROWN AGAINST THE WAVES,” its eight tracks explore the thoughts that come up when a person is staring down the barrel of blowing up their life: How did this happen? Is it too late for a new life? Will the kid be OK? What will make me happier: familiar torment or unknown freedom?
On “TRAP FEEDING,” we see the main character indulging in “dreams of alone” by scrolling apartment listings in secret. "Alone” is exciting in theory: He can be free to be himself in a new space, finding solace in records, comic books, and video games. But when faced with the reality of filling out forms and credit checks, “alone” shapeshifts into a terrifying concept signaling imminent heartache and unendurable loneliness. He finds himself paralyzed, unable to stomach the decision. “OLD WORDS WORN THIN” considers the logistics of how a move would play out, how they would divide their belongings, what memories each object would trigger. Who gets the records? Who gets the friends, for that matter? In a rare moment of comic relief amid the emotional turmoil and discordant riffs, Johnston screams, “I know I did not make the cut / but I can drive the truck.”
The tale ends with the 13-minute existential pulverizer “THROWN AGAINST THE WAVES." While the other songs mostly explore the impending turmoil of a future separation, the closer looks back on the destruction after the split of two people who became “sad shelters” to one another rather than loving partners. In a particularly dramatic moment, there’s a returns to the former home one last time: "I slide the key under the door / I don’t want the weight," Johnston shrieks in anguish, anxiously underscored by Mehling's frenzied rumbling and Parks' intuitively precise pummeling. Suddenly, everything goes silent for a few seconds, allowing time to process before launching into an agonizing rollercoaster of palpable grief and release. The song brings the album to a close with an emotionally crushing barrage of riffs -- giving a glimpse of what the trio is capable of in the live setting.