As both his choice of band name and album title indicate, Brandon Williams paints in contrasts with severe strokes. Death Lust is the next logical step in Chastity’s succession of early releases, from the Tape cassette in 2015 on to the “Peroxide” 7″ and Chains EP; the debut full-length statement of intent.
“I envy apathy / Is it paradise or deceit / How free it must be to feel nothing / I would give anything,” Williams declares in a pressing sigh as the fury of “Choke” pounds and scrapes all around him. Delivered in the middle of the record’s second track, this sentiment is a kind of skeleton key to understanding the tone of Death Lust. So much of the essence of self-consciously earnest post-adolescent angst is conveyed in these four succinct lines; the ‘envy’ sarcastic, ‘deceit’ the obvious answer, the freedom a myth.
Williams has noted in interviews how the environment of his hometown of Whitby, Ontario, tucked in the afternoon shadow of Toronto, has informed the perspective of his music. The economic disparity he has described growing up around — situations such as going to school with both the children of important figures and kids who live in trailer parks — is both specific and universal. Every small town in North America is the same, and every one of them is different, too. Many flee the anonymity of such safe but stifling places to find their voice, but Williams comes across as the kind of person potentially inclined to stay and fight, at least with his words and distortion pedals.
“Sadness is the danger of being young / Dreaming of the days still to come,” Williams warns on the penultimate “Come”, short and bittersweet, tenderly self-aware in its articulation of the inarticulate feelings created in and transmitted from so many teenage bedrooms, much like the one that Chastity’s first ever show took place in. Williams has noted that Death Lust, true to its title, is about growing up obsessed with death, but just as often it feels that the obsession is with growing up. The reflections on a high school mortality fixation are fixed in their time, such as the chorus of “Heaven Hell Anywhere Else”, a slice of fully preserved skip-class-to-smoke-a-joint conversation: “What would it feel like to fall? / From the school, 60 feet tall…No matter what kids are going to find the drugs / The helicopters in the sky won’t be enough to stop us.”
Death Lust isn’t entirely mired in the fate that awaits us all. The crunching open-chord opener “Children” ends on a note of running from home “for a better one”. “Chains” asks that you “Don’t waste your pain on hate / Start your life outside of the chains.” The final “Innocence” repeats “I’ve got hope” enough times that you actually start to believe it even after everything said to the contrary beforehand. Death Lust is an exorcism of youth’s most dramatic rehearsals, as well as, musically, an exercise in a concise adaptation of sharp ’90s alt-rock between the harder side of Smashing Pumpkins, the softer side of Deftones, and the melodic end of post-hardcore. It has a way of speaking frankly and directly to the vulnerable old nerves that we still carry under our skin however weathered and toughened on the outside.