Montreal’s Show of Bedlam sound like a mix of Neurosis, Oathbreaker, and Swans. Their sophomore album, Transfiguration, is full of odd sound clips, industrial influence, and extreme dissonance that add up to a unnerving stew of mental illness and post-metal angst.
Transfiguration kicks things off with a huge dissonant crash on the opener, “Black Lotus.” Vocalist Paulina Richards introduces her sprechstimme shouts interspersed with meandering plucked guitar and the song melts into a head-bobbing but still unsettling groove. The track seems to get stuck on a nagging ostinato toward the middle before finding its way back to a sinister march and finishing strong. As the track proceeds, Richards’ fury builds higher and higher morphing her vocals from a disturbing moan into full-on, hardcore-style screams. “Black Lotus” establishes the tone for the rest of the album very well.
The next track “Taelus” opens up quieter with similar dissonant chords and quickly finds the same crushing tone as the opener. “Taelus” fades out into a transition track, “Transfiguration,” which includes more sound clips over a repeating and building riff. Following that, “Hall of Mirrors” is slightly slower than the tracks before it. The guitars introduce some natural harmonics into the texture and slow things down even more around the 4 minute mark. Mostly, this track is more of the same. The final track (besides some ambient intros and outros) is by far the most interesting and moving. It contains a rare instance of Richards actually singing a bit. This is, of course, immediately remedied by more screaming but it’s effective while it lasts. After her screaming, a strange, tremolo guitar energizes the song to its emotional peak which subsides to an extremely ominous quiet section leading into the album’s final breakdown. The tracks slithers and sways into the album’s sturdy conclusion.
Overall, Transfiguration is a worthy specimen of post-metal. The main attraction here is the vocals’ juxtaposition against the guitar work. The thick guitar tone and its incessant grooves provide a solid foundation for the vocals to live in but Richards purposely avoids sticking to a clear pitch center even within that dense wall giving her screams and moans a sense of bitter disorientation. Her distinctly female timbres are refreshing especially in a sound so grounded in hardcore punk and metalcore. Additionally, though the guitar’s thick tone creates some stability, the chords played are mostly very dissonant and unresolving. The few times the guitar travels above the chuggy, lower range are always to add some slimey, haunting texture to the solid black backdrop. The album barely allows the listener to relax. The effect is nagging and annoying but, in this case, it’s completely intentional. All of that coupled with the unintelligible vocals and obscure, filtered audio clips create an album that is best listened to front to back when you’re really angry.
Pick it up on May 12 on their bandcamp page.