Preoccupations, ‘New Material’ – Album review

In the past 4 years, Preoccupations (previously known as Viet-Cong) have created a storm with their dark, mysterious and full throttle post-punk sounds. The Calgary post-punk warriors have yet again marched back into studio, and have delivered their third studio album, and it brings even more fiery post-punk belters, as well being a much more melodic experience than some of their previous material.

The new record, ironically named ‘New Material’ has brought forward a new creative, and melodic mindset to the table. Yet the band have stuck to their routes. Thumping, and loud drums and the dark and twisted crooning of lead vocalist Matt Flegal have been merged to become a more elegant and an easier listen, compared to the bands previous hard hitters like ‘Death’, ‘Silhouettes’ and ‘Degraded’.

‘Espionage’ is an explosive ay for the record to begin. A hypnotic synth lurks throughout the track as it deepens and darkens the opening tensions. Tribal drum beats, and a screeching call and response of “Change Is Everything” brings an opening thought about the result of Change.  ‘Decompose’ further tests the bands more melodic blend of their twisted style. A math rock drum beat, which is soothed by eastern chimes and a vocal performance that sees Flegal approaching a more melodic tempo rather than his dark crooning.

‘Disarray’ is a much darker entry, yet with a soaring post-punk riff and ghostly vocals, the track feels, almost enchanting. With references to hopelessness and loss scattered through the track, its dark and underlying meaning is questioned by Flegals vocals style. “Holding you up to the test of time, It’s easy to see why everything you’ve ever been told is a lie”. ‘Manipulation’ is a slow and mysterious entry from this record. The album feels, at this point it is lurking deeper, and deeper into uncharted territory for the band. The fleeting vocal performance, and hurtful cries from Flegal of “Please don’t remember me, Like I’ll always remember you” shows heartbreak and torment within his mind.

The longest track, stoning at 6 minutes long, ‘Antidote’ offers a tribal feel, yet the lyrical performance on this track is like nothing we’ve heard before from a Preoccupations song. The melodic contrast compared to the airy drums and deep bass line contrast each other to create an other world listen. ‘Antidote’ is loud and fierce, blending both the old, and new Preoccupations together.

‘Solace’ offers a more Joy Division esque beginning. The bass is drenched with reverb, and offers a fast paced urgency. Even going forward, Matt Flegal’s vocal performance can be likened to that of Ian Curtis. Yet the synths and progressive art-rock elements which are sewed into the sounds of Preoccupations take centre stage. The quick drumming, and the dance-like beats forcefully invite you into swaying along to the melody. The penultimate track, ‘Doubt’ invites a much slower tempo to draw the album to a close. The distorted, and airy vocals with the piercing synths and soundscapes make this one of the bands slower songs, yet it holds the dark energy that the band possess and turns it into something mysterious and whole.

The final track, ‘Compliance’ is an instrumental effort from the band, and my god is it worth cranking up the volume for. ‘Compliance’ is loud, piercing, and electrifying. Un like the fast paced and energetic ‘Death’, this song is 5 minutes of pure drone and noise-rock screeching. The reverb soaked guitars, and the soft , yet hard hitting drums that seep through the reverb create a soundscape that has to be enjoyed loud, with headphones. A sense of build is captured with a drum beat that seeps its way through the thick amounts of reverb, with the record concluding in one epic motion of distortion and chaos.

An outstanding release, from an outstanding band.


Words by Piran Aston (Twitter – @PiranAston_ )

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