Artist: The Sign of Four
Album: Sick of Being
To exist in this plane of reality is tiring—it demands constant struggle and energy expenditure, even to exist at a bare minimum. To even be is a daily battle for some—a war that makes heroes of out every day men and women. However, even among those unsung heroes, there are those who can’t cope—those whose heads are filled with strife and conflict. For those people, there is Sick of Being: the debut full length by Australian aggressors The Sign of Four. More than just a collection of songs that kill forty minutes of silence, Sick of Being is the soundtrack to the struggles of daily life—the back tracks to the brutalizing, antagonizing angst that fills the heads of those contemplating the end. Manic, malevolent and—of course—monstrously heavy, The Sign of Four are a unique combination of groovy, progressive metalcore and chaotic, thrashing deathcore that is bound to find a home inside the listener’s head, just to devour them from the inside out.
From the haunting leads at the onset of “Twoten,” throughout the dancy percussion in “Ribs” and the eviscerating heaviness in “Useless,” Sick of Being is one of the most unique and well-rounded heavy albums put out in years—true on an instrumental, lyrical and vocal level. Musically, the listener knows The Sign of Four are something special from the first smack of the kick drum in “Twoten.” Drummer Jarred Matthews is a masterful percussionist, using atmospheric, ambient patterns boldly in “Teeth” just as excellently as he employs blast beats and blitzkriegingfills in “Hands” and “Kill.” Matthews refuses to the let the listener go accustomed to any style he uses—expertly assaulting them with pointed skill and power on “Kill,” “Hands” and “New Blood” just as well as he uses slower, more sinister doom and downtempo deathcore influences on “Teeth” and “Useless.” On the slower tracks especially, Matthews works excellently with the gritty and distorted grooves from bassist Scott Jones. Jones’ earthy, crunchy tone adds rough, scraping edges to Matthews’ deep, booming kick drum, brilliantly complimenting his sharp cymbals that sound like boxes of broken glass and nails being broken against the listener’s head. The introduction to “Kill” showcases this with expertise, as Matthews’ toms and Jones’ lurid bass work together to lead into the jarring, dissonant adventure that guitarists Lee Burke and Lloyd Jarrett take the listener on. Burke and Jarrett do nothing short of a perfect job on Sick of Being, expertly flowing from catchy grooves, eerie leads, scathing leads and skull-crushing breakdowns without any hiccups. One track that deserves special attention is “Hands,” which sounds almost as if someone put The Acacia Strain, Structures and Yüth Forever in a blender. Here, Burke and Jarrett’s fretwork is simply unstoppable—as it leaves no stone unturned in its effort to completely eviscerate the listener.
The Sign of Four refused to succumb to any form of monotony—this is just as true of frontman Danny Muñoz as it is of the entire quintet. Muñoz’s vocal efforts are as intense and energetic as his lyrics are perverse, tormented and desperate. The most intimate example of this is the downbeat, depressive anthem “Bones,” where the instruments take on a lethargic mood and weigh the listener down like chains and weights. On top of it all, Muñoz can be heard lamenting living on this planet, questioning his own efforts and obsessing over his faults. Examples of his more frantic, frenzied moods are aplenty—especially on the aforementioned “Hands,” and on the lyrically perfect “Spector.” Muñoz uses a varied, dynamic range and scathing lyrics to latch hooks into the listener’s ears and drag them across fields of figurative broken glass. If it weren’t for Muñoz and his excellence, The Sign of Four’s Sick of Being would be sentenced to an Icarus-like fate: straying dangerously close to perfection only to be cast down.
If the musical energy or the vocal brilliance are not reasons alone to purchase a copy of The Sign of Four’s album, then consider how excellently they work together. Whether it’s the slower, solemn “Bones,” the dancy “Ribs,” or “Hands,” which is one of the most perfect songs heavy music has seen in years, The Sign of Four give you countless reasons to find respite in their ruthless, ravenous breed of heaviness. Truth be told, “Hands” alone is good enough to cast Sick of Being as a top-shelf album–it’s the fact that the rest of the release is practically just as good that makes it a release that listeners will be hard pressed to forget throughout 2016. Remember how The Last Ten Seconds of Life’s Soulless Hymns captivated ears throughout the entire year? Sick of Being does the same—making it a release that listeners surely will not grow sick of.
For Fans Of: Honest Crooks, Yüth Forever, Bodysnatcher, Like Statues
By: Connor Welsh