Motörhead t-shirts bear the slogan “Everything Louder Than Everything Else” which is some boast. There should probably be a small section at the bottom of that missive to include the words “(apart from A Place To Bury Strangers)” because APTBS are without doubt one of the loudest and noisiest bands on the planet. They may inhabit a different musical world to Lemmy and his cohorts, but APTBS definitely occupy similar territory when it comes to volume.
Things have changed somewhat for A Place To Bury Strangers since 2009’s Exploding Head. There’s no denying that Worship is still a ridiculously loud album, but unlike their previous work this is an exercise in controlled aggression. Alone opens the album in hostile fashion. It’s an abrasive and dark introduction, yet it points to a band refining their attack considerably. There are still waves of unpleasant distortion ebbing and flowing, but it’s the robotic feel that’s been adopted that cuts to the bone. Drum wise, APTBS sound as if they’ve kidnapped Big Black’s Roland (yes, we’re aware that Roland is a drum machine) whilst new bassist Dion Lunadon lays down some bone rattling backbone. Oliver Ackermann’s guitars meanwhile are just as abrasive as anything Albini ever played, but they’re more controlled than anything APTBS have done previously.
You Are the One is a calmer affair, bobbing along like a taut, gothic disco tune. Such concessions to tunefulness are not entirely unheard of for APTBS, but this is a considerable step away from the holocaust blasts of their previous work. Naturally Ackermann’s guitars seethe and scream at carefully orchestrated points, but now they seem to be adding textures rather than laying waste to everything within sonic range. Just when things are getting a little too easy on the ears, Mind Control returns to classic APTBS ground and is a no-thrills all out goth-rock explosion. Here Ackermann’s vocals are gloriously detached and unnerving, whilst the band explores a world inhabited by the grime covered ghosts of The Stooges.
Despite the occasional foray into mindless sonic assault, the overall feel of Worship is one of a band exploring slightly more tuneful and accessible territory. Rather than the constant barrage of noise that defined their earlier work, Worship appears to be geared towards pleasing the ears than simply ripping them off and stamping on them with feedback lined boots. The title track, Fear and Revenge all borrow heavily from Joy Division (and in particular the taut bass lines of Peter Hook) and The Jesus And Mary Chain, but retain a pop sensibility that is just audible beneath the coating of grime that APTBS ladle on with such glee. Dissolved meanwhile adopts a similar approach to My Bloody Valentine’s floaty noise pop, utilising seething and soaring guitars in equal measure to give a sense of something quite beautiful but also quite threatening. The quirky little guitar motifs come straight from J-pop and add a little brightness to the oppressiveness found everywhere else on Worship.
Yet despite concessions to accessibility, this is at times an arduous listen for the unprepared. There’s a claustrophobic quality that defines many of these songs due to the interplay between the krautrock drums and taut basslines. Ackermann’s guitars, although distinctly more tuneful this time out, still have the ability to drill into the brain whilst his emotionless drawl casts an inescapable dourness over the album. Listening to Worship is rarely what would normally be understood by the term ‘a pleasurable experience’, despite APTBS’ move towards “tuneful” songs. It is however, expertly executed. Curiously this is an album that may find APTBS in a self-imposed no-man’s-land. Long term fans might find Worship not as visceral as previous outings, whilst those intrigued by occasional flashes of melody might find themselves beaten into submission by the album’s oppressive nature.