Despite having been formed in 2006 and having released 3 LPs since, the Portland originated post punk band The Estranged have mostly fallen under the radar and out of public awareness. I myself had never heard of the three man act until the release of their self titled LP this month. Since then, I feel I need to make up for lost time.
The album is a bit of a period piece, evoking 80s Brit-Punk so well it could easily be placed in a lineup with the real deal and not seem out of place. Even though there’s an unmistakable high quality polish to it, the band's sound captures an ever so slight matte mutedness that might be heard on a live recording from another, not too distant past.
The band has garnered many comparisons to The Smiths, The Cure, and Joy Division, which is true for them overall, but the album sports a surprisingly diverse sound with a nicely varied influence. The guitar riff in "Forever Been Erased", for example, brings to mind Metallica's ...And Justice for All, "Mark of Sin" goes "Miss Murder" for its first half, and "Play for Keeps"’s instrumentals even bring to mind a bit of Queens of the Stone Age. Their classic guitar/bass/drum combo is technically simple and clean while retaining a good portion of frenetic power and energy. Although all members get points for proficiency, special mention goes to bassist Derek Willman, whose basslines would (were grooves chocolate) “melt in your mouth”.
The two standout tracks (in my opinion) come early in the album, and successively at that. "Fatalist Flaw" and "Hide" flaunt a very distinct prevalence of death rock, with all the atmosphere of an old horror flick. The minor chords like a creeping, dark neck of the woods. The echoing and low vocals like a long empty, decrepit home. The static fervency and energy like the snap of a twig and hairs standing on the back of a neck.
In terms of issues, The Estranged don’t have many glaring offenders. Some of the songs go on a bit long ("Play for Keeps" especially) and the album ostensively hits its high point in the first half (except for "The Ride", whose theremin and synth wails in the background might be my favorite thing on the album). There's not much of a novelty or innovation to it, although that says nothing of the quality and is more of an issue for findng a fanbase. The vocals can get muddled, to the point where the lack of mention of lyrics in this review were very, very intentional. However, for the most part these are nitpicks. This is a band that deserves recognition and reputation-something that may just be on the horizon for them.
8.0 / 10
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