FINAL DAYS SOCIETY - ICEBREAKER (SELF-RELEASE)
Music doesn’t really sound like places. Yeah, I’m talking about Sigur Rós.
“Conjuring images of the glacial Icelandic landscape, this collection of intricate paens to winter and the beauty in darkness is astounding in its emotional depth.”
That quote came from no review of any Sigur Rós album, but could equally have come from an online generator for any would-be music scribe seeking rapid alignment with the status quo. When someone says that the Ratking record sounds like New York, they probably mean it. Hell, my own Ratking review consisted of a set of my urban photographs and accompanying words that cried futility against the omniscience of your city. However, I’ve never been to New York. Those images were taken in Barcelona. What I’m trying to say is that music is manipulative, and the images it conjures can also be manipulated based on a) personal experience and b) information available. Sigur Ros are from Iceland. Their music is slow, oppressive, alien and foreboding. Glacial, one might say. Hey, there’s glaciers in Iceland! We’re onto a winner here, boys!
And so it is with Final Days Society. They’re from Växjö, Sweden, so I’m going to write a 600-word piece about each track on Icebreaker representing the oceanic climate of the municipality, along with the fragile yet proud nature of Kronoberg Castle and the history etched into its very landscape. I’ve even got the theme handed to me by the title. I can piss this.
Except I’m not, obviously. Despite the lacklustre work ethic indicated by my sparsely-populated site, I’m not actually lazy. I’ll admit to listening to Icebreaker while in Stockholm last month and yeah, it worked well, whether walking through green spaces in Långholmen or dodging camera flashes in Gamla Stan. But I put Refused on, too, and got just as much out of that. Music doesn’t really sound like places. We force that upon it, and we’re wrong to do so. What it sounds like are the people who made it, and everything they’ve encountered prior to its conception.
FDS are a post-rock band who clearly love post-rock and its illustrious forebears. This is the music they want to make. Therefore, they’re not producing something that you can’t get from Slint, Explosions in the Sky, Godspeed, Mogwai, EF, Blueneck, Pelican et al. Minor key, delay-soaked guitar figures and martial drums that lead to intense, alternately-picked codas. That’s the agreed template, and one to which FDS are keen to adhere. At Peace, At Last is wincingly close to an EITS track from its title alone. If you’ve listened to more than five post-rock records, there’s nothing here that will shock you outright. The vocals are welcome, but they’re not new in the genre. FDS aren’t new either, of course, as Icebreaker is their third record.
That sound you can hear in the background is that of knives being sharpened. If there’s nothing here that we can’t get from other LPs of the same ilk, why bother? It’s a question that can really only be answered through repeated listens. While each track may be signposted by the ghost of post-rock past, there remain little pockets of exploration that keep me from apathetic slumber every time. The ominous fuzz bass that finds its way into the title track before the next section brings cathartic guitars and battered screams. It’s vital and alive and makes me miss reckless old 65daysofstatic, wildly careening from one rickety beat to another until the whole thing falls apart. Overburdened Companions draws both from ambient music and accordion-led folk laments to construct a moving composition that plays with tension in a graceful, instinctive manner. It sounds like a band finding a comfortable place among its influences. While At Peace, At Last apes EITS in title, it explodes with formidable anger from the outset. More use of feedback as a genuine instrument in post-rock is something I long for every day (I know, I should probably talk to other humans more). There’s just a trace of it here, but it’s effective regardless.
There’s a huge amount of promise and ability on display throughout and, in theory, this record is everything I like about music. There’s also a brilliant album somewhere within Final Days Society. I want to clutch Icebreaker close and continually pore over every detail for years to come. But I just can’t. Despite the occasional desperate grab for your throat, it’s frustratingly familiar and ultimately redundant amid a sea of equally capable acts. The fact that I’ve resorted to an oceanic metaphor is as apt as it is depressing.