It’s really tough for me to review this full-length. Why? Because I loved the band’s demo tape and it’s really hard to separate the two releases. The self-titled official debut here has several of the same songs and, probably due to familiarity, they jump out as favorites from the get-go.
But I’ll do what I can to go all tabula rasa on it.
Era Bleak play…bleak punk. It’s anxious, frantic, and lost. It’s equal parts beaten down and resilient. It plays on an anxious state of mind while doubling as a fierce call to action. The lead video perfectly captures the tone: think ‘80s Cold War atmosphere plus ‘00s consumerism plus the orange menace. If that combination makes you feel claustrophobic, this may be a record for you. It pulls obvious influence from ‘80s punk and underground music, but with contemporary themes and powerful energy that’s suited to any period.
The guitar is often in an angular post-punk key that gives a sense of dystopia while the rhythm pounds relentlessly. They come together with big hook, fist-in-the-air moments but it’s creative and unique. Each song sounds different and this isn’t some testosterone-pumping circle pit template. The guitar tones play in a frantic tone that makes it feel more like aimless rambling where you wander through alleyways and, suddenly, you look up and wonder how you got there. Then the familiar hooks kick in, providing a sense of empowerment to counter the hopelessness.
For those keeping score, 5 of the 7 songs from the demo are on here – making Era Bleak 5 of 10 new songs for this listener. I can’t honestly review this as if it’s new to me, but it’s a hell of a record that should familiar to fans of the genre, but fresh and unpredictable at the same time. It has all the intangibles and emotion that make a good record that should appeal to fans of political music and punk before it added all those silly hyphens.
8.5 / 10
Posted July 7, 2020, 8:40 p.m.
On August 15, Portland, OR's Era Bleak will release their debut LP on Dirt Cult Records. The self-titled record follows a 2018 demo and follows a similar sonic trajectory ...
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