Heaviness and density is the name of the game for the sophomore album by Elizabeth Colour Wheel, Nocebo. True to Noise Rock standards, distorted guitars and pounding drums power the sound train, however there is so much nuance abound to this album’s sound which really kick it into something special. The vocals are some cross Janis Joplin and Joanna Newsom, providing a somewhat delicate and nasally delivery that can somehow power it’s way over the sonic heaviness most tracks bring to the table. I do really mean heavy; guitar and bass fill the low end of the mix to the max.
The opener, “Pink Palm” does an excellent job showing off just how all of these elements come together to create a finely tuned unique sound. The first thing to note is just how subtle the noise collage is that makes up their Shoegaze influence. It is just enough to create atmosphere over the layers of hard hitting alt-rock. The minor-progression of “Life of a Flower” creates an environment of claustrophobia with it’s dissonant tones and amazing transition between subwoofer killing blasts and downtempo unsettling verses. Something I really appreciate here is the attention to the enveloping noise. While almost more like an interlude track, the instrumental “Bedrest” plays off like some missing cut from the Twin Peaks soundtrack. The delayed de-tuned guitar cutting through the thick fog is plays quite nicely into the overall aesthetic of the album.
This leads right into “34th”, probably my favorite track. While some tracks definitely navigate in the direction of Sludge Metal, this track toes over the line. The admittedly beautiful shoegazey chorus develops into a cacophany of screams, deep bass hits, rolling drums, and nasty squealing guitars. This transitions quite nicely into the closer, “Head Home”. This starts out chill, with some nice added synth-work in the background providing some windy texture. This doesn’t last long as the track picks back off where the alt-rock roots rise are brought back. I love the ingenious mixing technique on this closer, as the track concludes each bar gets successfully louder until the point it actually starts clipping the EQ. The intent of progressively making the sound heavier and louder past the point of comprehension is an amazing artistic choice.
As someone who came into this on the intriguing album art and genre tags alone, I was quite surprised how much this album blew me away. Having zero expectations is one thing, getting introduced to a blend of genres like this that you haven’t heard before is a whole other. Really the only critical thing I can bring up against this is that the songwriting remains a tad bit samey, with similar tropes and checkpoints in most of the standard tracks. That being said, the vocal delivery along with the powerful and moody instrumentals created a really unique combo in my mind. I definitely plan on revisiting this throughout the year and look forward to hearing more from this group.