I am a firm believer in the fact that the seasons influence my listening, and from what I can gather, the listening habits of others as well. Below The House, while an absolutely awesome record, also had the good fortune of reaching my ears on a day where it’s melancholy, delay washed warmth, fit the grey skies and slowly melting snow of my surroundings.
Planning for Burial is the solo project of Pennsylvania based musician Thom Washluck. Their sound can be described as a marriage of shoegaze, slowcore, and post punk, with a touch of black metal lurking just beneath the surface. Being well versed in the project’s prior work, I was excited to hear this album, and based on the two singles released, I was confident I would enjoy it. I was still unprepared for just how much I adore this album.
Right off the bat, the screamed vocals of “Whiskey and Wine” marked a change from what I had become accustomed to Planning for Burial sounded like. The music was familiar in tone; dark, plodding, heavy in emotional content, but the black metal ish shrieks opened the album with a sort of urgency that sounded fresh for them. Thom sounds like he’s in pain, and not in some manufactured way that coincides with an image. It sounds like he’s screaming out of true desperation, with no regard for fitting into a genre and not as an attempt to eschew conventions of one either. Screamed vocals make an appearance on one other track as well, and they compliment the almost soothing music in a way that I found to be truly interesting and innovative.
It’s amazing how much is “said” by Below The House with such minimalist instrumentation, and with vocals washed out and far from the foreground, lyrics barely distinguishable at times. This isn’t to say that there isn’t a wealth of songwriting talent. Far from it. In fact, I think it’s so telling that there are truly beautiful, overwhelming moments, like the choral sounding vocals backed by swells of reverb and delay in “Dull Knife pt 2”, or the simplistic motifs of “(something)” that washed over me while listening. There’s also songs like “Somewhere In The Evening” that balance heavy guitar with haunting melody in a way that Justin Broadrick would be envious of. Despite being an album rooted in ambiance, there’s a lot of meat on the bones of Below The House.
Planning for Burial have made another fantastic album. While prolific in the overall number of releases, this is their third true full length, and is in my opinion, their finest work. While the year is still young, this is easily the best thing I’ve heard so far in a year that’s started off very strong for me musically. I was completely enraptured listening to Below The House, and would absolutely recommend it to damn near anyone.
Release Date: March 10th, 2017
Label: The Flenser
Favorite Tracks: “Dull Knife pt II” “(somewhere)” “Whiskey and Wine”
For Fans Of: Jesu, Have a Nice Life, Dweller on the Threshold