I first encountered Our Time Down Here at Crash Doubt Fest. I didn’t actually watch them, but one of them ran up to me clutching a CD in his hand going “Is that an AFI tattoo on your shoulder?” I replied yes, we chatted about AFI for a bit and he gave me their album, because if I liked AFI and Alkaline Trio, I might just like theirs. At the very least, I was certainly impressed by the Goonies reference in their name. So, upon my return to more southern climes, I turned off all the lights and gave it a whirl.
The album opens with an evocative piano introduction in 7th October 1984. The eerie children’s choir provide an intriguing start, but the intro as a whole doesn’t necessarily pull any punches, instead taking a devastatingly subtle approach. This means that any expectations that you may have had are then completely torn down by Precognition‘s fast and dirty punk rock. Precognition is desperate, frantic and utterly exhilarating, no doubt aided by the almost breathless vocals from Will Gould. Gould’s vocals throughout the album are so distinctive and a pleasant change from the cookie-cutter pop-punk whine that’s infected so much clean-vocalled alternative music in the UK at the moment. There’s a fair amount of songs like Precognition on the album – for example, I’m A Hex and Every Little Thing She Does Is Tragic have that same intensity – but there’s also songs with a far greater pop-punk feel. Our Time Down Here explore a decent variety of different styles throughout the album, but are most comfortable treading the line between horrorpunk and pop-punk, leading to some absolutely rip roaring anthems like 4 Months.
That said, the band never lose sight of the atmosphere they’re trying to create. Just as you think everything’s fine, that children’s choir comes back in – Crystal Effigy is particularly unnerving and the choir’s presence pervades The Power Of Charm, which in itself is gleefully dark with some great guitar. There’s a spoken word interlude, Naglfar, with some serious rainfall in the background and ups the intensity tenfold before the slow burning opening to The Reckoning, which again shifts all expectation with some incredible gang vocals and very speedy drum work from Shane Bonthuys. That atmosphere is maintained best through the lyrics. All across Midnight Mass, the lyrics revel in melancholy and terror. Final track Angel Of Mercy asks “will it all amount to nothing?” and I can say, hand on heart, that Midnight Mass has achieved everything it set out to do and more – that bonus hardcore track at the end is just too brilliant to ruin the tone.
To finish, what is most refreshing about Midnight Mass is that while it obviously draws from that horrorpunk scene of the early 2000s, a la AFI, Alkaline Trio and Tiger Army, the album is in no way a carbon copy of the records that were coming out at that time. True, The Death Rattle has a definite Alkaline Trio influence in the guitars and in the vocals, but it doesn’t sound like a rip off – instead, it’s a well done tribute to that scene as well as being so much more, and it’s great to see a band like this coming out of the UK. Hopefully, the next time I see them, I will actually be able to catch the live show.
4 out of 5 high fives!