~Tirhakah Love (@GoonTherapy)
As a rock band, Year of the Locust, rule in harmony not dissimilar from the critters they’re named after–their sound is synchronized and smartly composed, but the monolithic nature of the sound borders on boring. On their most recent album, “Devolver,” Year of the Locust is a traditional rock band leaning into metal stylings. In a musical landscape defined by incredulous infidelity in terms of genre, the band comes off a little too Nickleback. This would be okay in 2005, but it’s 2016, and Peter Heller’s gritty rock rasp sounds every bit as outdated as Chad Kroeger.
The generic anachronistic feel to their music would be just fine if the lyricism wasn’t so vague. It’s hard to tell who Year of the Locust is supposed to be appealing to. They’re gravely dark on “Sledgehammer” with eerie screeches and throat curling vocals grinding up against a distorted Vox system. “I’m on the edge, so I grab my sledge,” is a particularly atrocious lyrical progression that never answers the question what has pushed you so far? There are, indeed, a lot of questions on “Devolver” that are just left open. Maybe this is partially an artistic choice, but there’s a clear lack of mystique to keep the audience engaged long enough to get the answer. In “Rise Up,” Hellers groans, “We are the chosen,” but chosen to do what? They mention that “battle lines will be drawn,” but what exactly are we fighting for? It feels like this album was mainly written in the passive voice, making it doubly annoying–it takes itself too seriously. If there are going to be so many loose ends, why play up the darkness like its shrouding anything useful?
There are moments of cleverness that redeem the project even if only a little. “My Medicine,” a creaky grave song that paints an unnamed drug as an accomplice to the lead singer’s, culprit–alluding to what crime, I have no clue. The crawl of a song is drawn out, even more, when guitarist and vocalist, Scot MicGovern, embodies a Satanic conscience. It’s a heavily used sonic tactic to denote evil but at the very least it sounds different–sort of like The Shredder on the first live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film–from all the other traditional rock songs on “Devolver.” By the second half of the album, when Years of Locust have turned down the decibels, one’s patience may run a little thin. Ironically, this is where the band shines. “In Your Corner” is the best song on the album featuring a bumping bass introduction and generous use of distortion as Hellers and MicGovern slam on the wah peddle. The band takes an unfortunate dive on “Better Than You,” which, maybe if placed a little higher up on the track listing, might’ve been received as a charming bit of confidence, but instead reads like a letter from a couple privileged white guys.
Years of Locust leaves a lot to be desired on “Devolver.” The lyrical superficiality and traditionalist stance notwithstanding, I just found myself bored and confused; two things you never want your audience to feel. Many artists can paint a functional veneer of mystique, but it takes great artistry to fulfill that mystique. Years of Locust couldn’t deliver on the promise of the many inquiries they raised. “So many questions, with no answers,” they sing on “Imagine the Children,” so many questions, indeed.
Streaming Links for Year of the Locusts