'High Crimes' - The Damned Things / Turned Up Louder
You know those days when you just can’t decide what to listen to? One part of you is feeling like some angst filled emo from a band such as Fall Out Boy, while another part of you is feeling like some classic heavy metal from Anthrax, and yet another facet of your conflicted mind would really like to sample the darkly atmospheric punk rock of Alkaline Trio, or the more hardcore-influenced side of punk that informs the music of Every Time I Die. Well, fear not, you conflicted masses, because the return of one of rock’s most ambitious supergroups is here to provide you with all of the above, and more. Originally intended as a temporary outlet for the overflowing creative juices of Fall Out Boy guitarist Joe Trohman, supergroup The Damned Things burst into life with their first – and, until now, only- record, ‘Ironiclast’ way back in 2010, to a raucous reception. Having drifted back to their individual pursuits since the record’s release, most of the band’s members – namely Trohman’s Fall Out Boy bandmate Andy Hurley; Scott Ian of Anthrax; and Keith Buckley of Every Time I Die- remained in contact, with the prospect of a second record never truly out of the realms of possibility. And now, with the introduction of Alkaline Trio’s Dan Andriano to the mix, The Damned Things have finally made their return, in the form of their sophomore record ‘High Crimes’. A delectably powerful record, ‘High Crimes’ begs to be set against a backdrop of as much pyrotechnics as money can buy, with its huge, classic arena rock riffs and rich swagger that melts like magma beneath the surface.
The blistering opening screams of ‘Cells’ bring with them all the wonderful melodrama you could ask for, from the scything guitars and low grumbling thunder of the bass, to the slick groove in the jazzy clicks that back the pitching and falling of the isolated guitar that then breaks into punishing screams- ‘oh, fuck’ is right! Big, archetypal rock melodies feature heavily across the record, the huge, swinging melody of ‘Invincible’, which boasts that classic arena rock guitar tone that makes it an instant fist-pumping anthem without the unnecessary bells and whistles- topped off with the final swooping key change which is a long-awaited delight. A hailstorm of stickly riffs pierce the melody of ‘Something Good’, which builds around its humongous rock chorus with raucous, crowd vocals that are self-aware in their cheesiness perfectly engineered to be screamed by crowds of thousands and galloping drums in the chorus, all counterbalanced with verses that drip with unctuous drama and sex appeal.
Despite appearing to be drawing from their collective musical heritage on this record, The Damned Things are by no means afraid of tinkering with the more experimental- as one would expect from a collective of musicians from relatively diverse projects. The track that captures this more profoundly than any other is undoubtedly ‘Storm Charmer’. Reverberating echoes and piercing lazers give way to an inky, chugging melody, bursting with all the sensuality and danger that first made rock and roll so feared and yet so darkly attractive. Full of surprises, the track abruptly breaks into a popping chorale, - given pace by a layer of space-age synth notes, distorted vocals and wailing guitars that give it an insatiable energy - before returning to the delectably sludgy verse with whiplash-inducing speed. A track of two halves, it is difficult to correlate the two distinct atmospheres as belonging to one track, yet individually they each boast their own merits with pointed ferocity. Those futuristic synths again make an appearance on ‘Keep Crawling’, where the drop in tempo, while it may not be the most invigorating moment on the record, showcases the deliberate, decisive side of this band- it is not all fancy guitar work, this is a band who understand the power of brilliantly-crafted melody and cutting lyricism, laid over gloomy, prickly riffs that any old-school metal band would be proud of. Initially rougher and more unbridled than its predecessors, ‘Carry a Brick’ is different again, hinting at a punkier influence, dual vocal layers, relentless pummelling of the drums and the moulded layers of guitar and bass that interweave each other seamlessly. Despite the rising sense of anarchy behind this track, the midsection plods a little: thankfully, it is carefully adorned with a short, spicy guitar interval to invigorate the melody once again.
And across the record, the party is never far away! ‘Omen’ possesses a self-assured swagger to the grimy bassline and the guitar line that flirts with the melody, adding flickering moments of venom in the verses before igniting in the chorus into a darkly bubbling flame. The highlight, however, comes when the backing falls away to showcase the bright, slicing guitar lines that climb and ebb with an effortless grace. ‘Let Me Be (Your Girl)’ kicks the pace back in in a big way, pumped full of electrified guitars, insatiable energy and inexorable pace, while the kick drum pounds like a heartbeat at the centre of ‘Young Hearts’ driving the pace of the track alongside the grinding bassline. Tension oozes out of the bridge, as the drop in tempo builds towards a final upswing in pace that never quite materialises, yet the song’s conclusion, with that booming kick drum pulsing in the background, remains a boisterous finale. Driving guitars pull the listener along at breakneck speed into the final stretch, of ‘The Fire Is Cold’, yet even amongst the huge, deliberate choruses, distorted guitars are still left with space to breathe, and the final riff in the bridge is simply stunning, before the last unexpected burst of sound that is left ringing in your ears long after The Damned Things, and ‘High Crimes’, have had their last laugh. The only point of contention here is the record’s closing lyrics, ‘We won’t survive, we are nothing’, because if anything is certain, whoever said stadium-worthy guitar music is dead has just been proven wholly and utterly wrong.
‘High Crimes’ is out now via Nuclear Blast Records.
Check out the video for the band's latest single, 'Something Good', below:
The Damned Things are touring the US in support of 'High Crimes' in May- dates can be found below:
The Damned Things 2019 Tour Dates: 05/01 — Los Angeles, CA @ The Whiskey 05/04 — Jacksonville, FL @ Welcome To Rockville 05/06 — Lancaster, PA @ The Chameleon 05/07 — Brooklyn, NY @ Brooklyn Bazaar 05/09 — Pittsburgh, PA @ The Rex 05/10 — Nashville, TN @ The Cowan 05/11 — Rockingham, NC @ Epicenter Fest 05/12 — Lexington, KY @ Manchester Music Hall 05/14 — Grand Rapids, MI @ Elevation @ The Intersection 05/16 — Flint, MI @ Machine Shop 05/17 — Chicago, IL @ The Bottom Lounge 05/18 — Springfield, MO @ Outland Ballroom 05/19 — Dallas, TX @ Gas Monkey 05/21 — Denver, CO @ Oriental Theater 05/22 — Colorado Springs, CO @ Black Sheep 05/24 — Tempe, AZ @ Tempe Marketplace (KUPD Concert Series) 05/25 — San Diego, CA @ Brick By Brick