Gloomy music—from doom metal to goth rock, to put it in the most basic categories—is often dismissed as something created for a teenage market or a specific type of culture. While this is often true, where band after band comes out with some mournful yet tacky tune for the younger crowd, Have a Nice Life has a different approach. These are neither teenagers nor do they fit specifically within any style or culture. This is music written by and for adults, showing a maturity in approach and presentation. Yet, one of the most intriguing aspects I find in music is when it defies these predefined genre constraints, or the clichés that inherently come with any genre tag. As humans, we naturally attempt to categorize things into clearly understandable labels; this is, after all, a key attribute to the work of those of us in music journalism. While it certainly is a useful process for a great number of reasons, it not only has its limitations, but it also inevitably imposes limitations upon the artist if they buy into these outside descriptions. One of the greatest frustrations in the obsession over defining genre upon genre is how individuals end up portraying a character within their scene, rather than simply being who they are.
It is because of their hidden traits that, as much as we would like to pretend otherwise, just because our patched jacket or haircut may have similarities, we are not necessarily comrades. Have a Nice Life exemplifies this conflict in diversity, combining drone, doom, typical guitar-driven rock, darkwave, and more. It’s like an 80’s goth got ahold of an Orange amp and rocked it to some indie music, all the while refusing to be pinned down by any one particular fad or group mentality. Because of this, we have music that will not bring you closer to others, but rather seems to elaborate upon just how far apart we truly are.
“Defenstration Song” has one of those riffs and tempos that make it an attractive choice to fit nicely next to any of Joy Divison‘s best efforts. The guitars echo heavily on the sustain as the vocals drift in lamentations. It makes you want to spin around like the Sufi dancers on the cover while reliving the dreadful false emotions that accompany our teenage years. Other tracks seem to channel Nine Inch Nail’s The Fragile, which may make some readers shudder, but keep in mind the one and only Coil were long-time collaborators with Trent Reznor, so you can get over it.
A band such as this could be the first step for many into odder and louder worlds. Many who cannot stand distorted or screamed vocals would find The Unnatural World to be a nice compromise as it easily has a mainstream appeal while being anything but. A paradox I am sure, but one I think you will understand when you recognize how formulaic one aspect of the album is, and how experimental and simply odd another side is. “Music Will Untune the Sky” focuses on a droning guitar and wailing vocals, directing more attention on the latter aspect. Some of the tracks with an upbeat tempo could easily be “cleaned up” and turned into radio hits, but with tracks around the six-minute range that rely so much on being uncomfortable, this would likely never happen.
With heavy and droning synths, accompanied with incredibly surreal melody, I find it hard to not enjoy this. Everything has been turned up, from the sustain to the emotions, creating a sensation that becomes a soundtrack for all the frustrations and difficulties of daily life. The vocal melodies are full of power and angst, and while I want to dismiss such things as childish they are often all too real, for some part of us never fully escapes those awkward years. Music like this is an excuse to deal with those emotions as an adult and still hold your head high; it also helps that the music is damn good as well. The Unnatural World covers the gamut of the last few centuries of music while sounding completely modern, and as an extra plus, it exists almost completely outside of what is considered popular music in this style right now. Containing aspects of bands such as the Angelic Process and Nadja while creating something completely new that is relatable across various genres is not an easy task.
As the last track, “Emptiness Will Eat the Witch,” begins to filter through my stereo speakers, the sounds of an organ and a steady guitar line create the backdrop for vocals that reverberate with desolation. Have a Nice Life is in itself a post-modern Existential crisis—one that will often go misunderstood because there is no understanding this. There is only the experience to be found here, and it is not pleasant. Comforting, surely, but that is altogether something else which has more to do with familiarity. This is why I am always drawn to music such as this, for it contains that very loneliness that I have searched for in many other bands of different styles, yet in a way this is freeing because this journey led me to a project that does not reflect one particular ideology, genre, or worst of all, scene. The Unnatural World reflects no group and no collective outside of its creator; it is just the ringing of solitude—a solitude that only comes with knowing that we all face the same fate: to die alone.
01) Guggenheim Wax Museum
02) Defenestration Song
03) Burial Society
04) Music Will Untune the Sky
06) Unholy Life
07) Dan and Tim, Reunited by Fate
08) Emptiness Will Eat the Witch
Written by: Patrick Bertlein
Enemies List Home Recordings (United States) / EL20 / 12″ LP
Flenser Records (United States) / FR39 / 12″ LP, Digital
Shoegaze / Gothic Rock / Doom Metal