[4 August 2014]
PopMatters Music Editor - Canada
I’m a bit of a neophyte when it comes to metal, but I swear that To Set Ablaze is the most unrelentingly evil and brutal thing I’ve heard in a long while. Founded a year ago, this Wisconsin group makes music that is so menacing that I felt, after listening to The Life We Lead that I needed to call up my local parish priest and have him come over to perform an exorcism in my apartment. And when the album ends with a sample of something being played backwards, I was convinced that the album was pure unadulterated evil. I wish I could tell you for sure, but, per this genre of music, the vocals are usually guttural and indistinguishable, the howl of a small wild animal whose paw has been caught in a bear trap. (In an ironic note, the track “Infectious” begins with the singer noting, quite audibly, that he’s forgotten the lyrics, as if they really mattered in the first place.) And the music is often punishing and played at inhuman tempos. All of this sense of danger creates something fun and stirring.
However, there are some flaws to The Life We Lead, and they generally have to do with sequencing. The album starts off with a nice piano interlude, a nod to classical music, but then, in a complete 180, the track morphs into the punishing “The Confession” which creates a sense of whiplash. And the brutal “Slaves” gives way to “Interlude” which is basically a glitchy song of electronic drumbeats, which, again, slams the album into a brick wall. Too, on “The Confession”, it sounds as though the drummer is having trouble keeping up with the pace of the song, as a few cymbal crashes feel a half beat or so behind. Despite this, though, The Life We Lead is quite enjoyable in all of its turgid brutality. Listen to this, and you’ll be making devil horns with your hands. With a bit more direction, and less aimlessness, To Set Ablaze might chart a course as being the most dangerous band on the planet.