On the whole The Black Box Contained Nothing But Our Deaths is a collection of songs that never manages to bust it’s load, but by no means is any of this writing to be proclaimed terrible. Every moment feels intentional and The Noises We Make When No One Is Around have a very clear sound in mind. There’s nothing objectively wrong with a single moment, but in all honesty it’s rather dull and without a little more variety the songs are too intrinsically similar to captivate a listener for it’s entirety.
After I tore my horrified gaze away from the artwork that was clearly (not so painstakingly) crafted using MS Paint I reset the first track and decided to focus on the music. I was initially intending to take the songs one at a time, but it soon became apparent that this would be an impossibilty. The songs bleed seamlessly in to each other simply because the tone they set is always identical. After a few listens through, I’ve become torn between looking at the E.P in two ways; the title track is either a good example of what the other three tracks could have been, or that the other three tracks are a disappointing example of the first track. Take from that sentence what you will, but ‘Black Box’ is certainly the highlight of this four track E.P, so let’s start with that.
‘Black Box’ strikes me as the kind of song that could prequel any collection of music striving for dark undertones. It’s creepy, empty and clearly sets the stage for the direction the band wants to take. We’re introduced to these guys with spacious ambience, slowly growing with the help of some intentionally lazy chords from the guitar. Already I’m picturing a host of distressing visuals and start to take this music for what it is, it’s sound-scape and it’s screams to be married to some visuals. In fact a lot of this album, to me, makes little sense without some visual accompaniment. When ‘Black Box’ reaches it’s halfway point we get a taste of what this band is really about, some delicately plucked guitar lines and unintelligible vocals. It still manages to continue to build tension without doing much and it’s a testament to the school of “less is more”. At this point this song still makes a lot of sense to me, especially as an introduction to the EP and it leaves you
waiting to be kicked in the teeth by the next song.
Unfortunately this is where the formula breaks down, ‘Empty Houses’ accomplishes nothing that the first track didn’t, it feels like another introduction to something much grander and this trend continues throughout the remaining tracks. There are some thoughtful chord progressions in these songs if you’re willing to listen closely, but I find it hard to appreciate them with the wailing vocals often distracting away from the delicate guitar parts. I also feel the songs would benefit from letting the vocals sit back in the mix instead of being at the forefront. They feel more like another instrument rather than the driving force behind the music. It could still work as an extended play if at least one of the songs had a sense of urgency that need not necessarily take away from the bizarre and creepy elements that they’re clearly striving for.
I won’t lie, I sat here writing this review with a thesaurus open on the word “haunting”, because really that’s all it does. It haunts me and likely will continue to do so. With any review there’s bound to be ample elements of subjectivity, but I think most would attest to the E.P lacking anything truly captivating. It’s horrifying in an intentional way, it’s the kind of music you’d put on if it was sunny outside but you were pining for grey clouds and a light patter of rain. It’s eerie, dreary and down right depressing, but I can’t think of a context for which these songs would be appropriate other than building tension in a horror movie (though that need not be derogatory). The bottom line for me really is that it’s beige and while beige may be boring, it’s still hard to truly hate beige.
Words by Daniel Gibbon