Anxiety comes in waves. In a storm, the wind can change so quickly that it’s impossible to tell where to cover yourself. Inspired by a torturous summer riddled with anxieties, Elizabeth Colour Wheel created Nocebo as a means of screaming into the metaphorical pillow each of us needs to remain who we are.
Elizabeth Colour Wheel released their first proper album on March 15th on The Flenser, a record label known for reverb and catharsis (Have a Nice Life, Planning For Burial, Street Sects). Having previously released two EPs (self-titled and Queen Tired), ECW began their descent into twisting and turning anxiety. Members include Billy Cunningham on bass, Ally Jackson on guitar and synths, Emmett Palaima on guitar, Connor Devito on drums, and Lane Shi on vocals.
A meandering guitar kicks everything off on “Pink Palm.” It’s a chilling, isolating sound and Lane’s vocals creep in sounding contrary to how you imagine they should. Ally’s synths create a beautiful breakdown akin to the final scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey or a kaleidoscope of every non-pop scene from the ’90s. “Somnambulist” bridges the gap to “23” where Ally and Emmitt’s guitars distort to the point that I imagine the broken strings and blood given to the ether to make this sound possible.
“Life of a Flower” weaves itself like a nursery rhyme crossed with the elegance of a ballet dancer. Crescendos keep building and building until a detuned guitar pulls you along a bit further. And with the precision of a surgeon, Connor’s drumming sews everything back together with bloody aggression. This just feels like each part of your soul is elongated into a formless void to waver in the breeze. Like a bolt of lightning “Hide Behind (Emmett’s Song)” screeches completely out of control. All of this chaos is kept from being completely unleashed by Billy’s militant bass, which controls everything with the grace of a lion tamer. The aptly titled “Bedrest” is a much-needed breather before the hellish “34th”.
Lane flexes her vocals throughout each track like Beth Gibbons getting electroshock therapy. But her sinister howl is surrounded by instruments reminiscent of a train being forced to move forward by any means necessary. “Head Home” closes everything out in a way that seems somber and collected. Each member sprinkles gorgeous melodies whose changing tones honestly put me on edge. Each part of the band sound possessed and finally in charge of what’s been happening to them.
Nocebo ‘s intensity is like a complicated origami design. Following all of its intricate patterns may make your eyes confused and out of focus, but Elizabeth Colour Wheel grabs your psyche and drags through places few bands are brave enough to venture.