Out of the vortex that was the year 2020, one of the few silver linings was my newfound interest in noise-pop duo, Black Dresses. But like everything else that occurred throughout the year, it couldn’t be left alone, and a few months later the group that released my favorite record of the year soon announced their official break-up. Thankfully though, Peaceful as Hell (2020) wasn’t the last we’d seen of the group, and just over a week ago, the group released yet another full-length record, consisting of songs written and recorded last year.
Music video to my favorite of last year’s songs: “CREEP U.”
While it may not mean the group is back, or even will be back, the release marks another solid go at their hyper… noise… metal… thing… that they call music. And this time, likely due to the circumstances of the record’s recording, it’s a bit more fragmented and much less overtly positive. Still laced with many of their hallmark themes (and even specific lines) like emotional distress, feeling accepted, and “figuring it out,” it doesn’t shy away from transparency in the slightest—which is just a little surprising, considering the reason given for the breakup was related to fan-related intrusions—and focuses on very vulnerable but relatable self-reflection. So much so, their last record’s active attempt to create a least a little bit of positivity is almost completely gone now (very well illustrated by the shift in cover art).
Instead, it’s thoughts of hopelessness that are oozing out of each and every verse and chorus on Forever In Your Heart, with both members (literally) beginning the record “with no hope,” and (literally) ending it with the realization that “[they] couldn’t keep it together.” In fact, the last line of the album-closer, “(Can’t) Keep It Together”—”But it’s not that bad”—is one of the few instances of even feigned positivity they could muster. The record’s identity seems tied to their last, but in a way that answers it and the questions it posed. Repeated lines like “I don’t want to do this anymore” almost indirectly answer their confused and distressed past-selves, when they asked “is it okay for me to be happy?,” giving up on their imaginative world of acceptance and Heaven for nothing but “twisting shadows.”
The minimal examples of positivity and fun are left for small, fourth-wall-breaking quips and amusing song-related ideas. For example, the track “Bulldozer,” is entirely about their “pussy [being] like a bulldozer;” “Tiny Ball” sounds like an elementary school music song gone bad, being spoken over just a metronome and its following distortions; and almost every song ends on some randomly-recorded instance in the recording booth, like the startled “Oh, it’s still recording.”
Stream and visualizer for Forever In Your Heart.
Lost in the transition to this new and significantly more depressed Black Dresses are then—perhaps unsurprisingly—many of their poppier, less-harsh hooks, leaving instead, a sound with an increased focus on heavy metal. Any catchy choruses, glossy guitars, or synth-y instrumentals are now lost in a pit of chunky guitars and shrieks, which were always featured across the band’s discography, but in more limited supply. Small(er) examples, like the center of “Concrete Bubble,” still sound silky and smooth, but are almost always book-ended by death metal-esque squeals or intense, subtle, monotone narration.
One thing that doesn’t change in the slightest, however, is their willingness to get creative in the production studio—even for themselves. The group’s abrasive electronics always find their way in somehow, but on Forever In Your Heart, they come up with some of the wonkiest entrances yet. “Bulldozer” becomes even more intriguing when placed across a hollow, white-noise-filled background like something out of a clipping. LP. “Heaven” utilizes a persistent, high-pitched revving similar to that of a powerful screwdriver. And “Perfect Teeth” is a pulsating torture-chamber of pounding bass and distorted instrumentals. Almost every track on the record follows a similar formula to Black Dresses’ other music, but what’s unique about this release is how distinguishable each track is from each other. Few is shared between singular songs on this record, and it seems to be just due to experimentation.
Much like their overall sound on this record though, certain experimental songs opt for a much darker minimalism than the very layered-but-fun Peaceful as Hell. Both “Bulldozer” and “Waiting42moro” focus on one thing and one thing only, pushing away distortion and the claustrophobic wall of sound for fairly lyric-based, almost lo-fi content. The lyrics aren’t more important, better, or clearer, but the excess room they leave for the negativity helps it spread so much further.
Forever In Your Heart is another outstanding release from the very unique Black Dresses, but its identity is much darker and not quite as hashed-out as Peaceful as Hell‘s. It feels less polished, less uniform, and certainly less open-minded, finally falling into the abyss of despair previously explored and questioned in their past material. It’s impossible to say if it’ll end up being their last release ever, as every band goes through their ups and downs, but in terms of both topic selection and overall focus, it almost feels like it has to be. The sadness and anger are unflinching, and the endless experimentation feels like their last hurrah! But if it does end up being their last, at least it’s a good one.
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Final Score: 8.5/10
Favorite Track(s): “PEACESIGN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!,” “Concrete Bubble,” “Heaven,” “We’ll Figure It Out,” “Understanding,” “Zero Ultra,” “(Can’t) Keep It Together”
Least Favorite Track(s): “Bulldozer,” “Tiny Ball”