In these days, weeks, and months where so much of daily life can feel crushingly difficult, it’s sensible to think that bands of the dynamically heavier variety might find a groove of abundant embrace from the listening public. This feels appropriate if for no other reason than the music of genres like metal, grunge, post-rock, and emo, would very straightforwardly match the outer goings on of society and its closest potential corresponding moods. The sheer sonic nature of these style would make it seem like bands wouldn’t necessarily want or even feel the need to write lyrics or build songs with messages that zoom in even further on the specifics of today’s pandemic-ridden world – that the weight of the music would be enough.
Well Long Island, NY post-rock band Crash the Calm in fact didn’t seek to write music meant to specifically resonate with the storylines of the pandemic or even the overall mood of 2020. And yet, with the group’s latest single, “Devils,” the final piece somehow falls into a space that does just exactly that.
Crash the Calm is:
Brian Dowling (Vocals, Guitar)
Patrick Smith (Guitar)
Dan LeBrun (Guitar)
Dave Van Nostrand (Bass)
Johnny Pots (Drums)
Years before any of the world’s present ails came into being, Crash the Calm pounded pavement and worked toward the intermittent milestones of making records, much like any other independent group. Last heard together in 2018 on a Split EP done together with fellow Long Island band, Staleworth, it was virtually right after this small but meaningful icon of success that Crash the Calm’s name became more of a descriptor for the band’s state of affairs than anything else. The departure all but the founding members Dowling and Smith left the group structurally frayed at rock bottom but it was this low point that catalyzed the concept for not only “Devils” but an entire forthcoming new album.
What makes “Devils” align so well with the mentalities and emotions of the present isn’t laid out in terms of current events or proper noun driven lyrics. It’s Crash the Calm merely being inspired by the abrupt and uncontrollable change that befell the band and writing from a place that is motivated around collecting itself, recovering, and re-discovering the band’s identity, heart, and soul. The parallels in this kind of scenario are not hard to notice but the band don’t go out of their way to make connections where there aren’t naturally any already.
“Devils” comes in hard and fast, with tone-dense, dynamically loud, almost droning chords that initially hit with unapologetic dramatic force. Yet as each rings out, it becomes easier to settle into the blunt groove they created and acclimate to the state of sound swirling around Dowling’s comparatively thinner vocals that serve as a initially lone sword to cut through the heavy chord cover.
This sequence of mental adjustments as “Devils” happens to suitably depict the historically fictitious setting around which Crash the Calm is basing both the song and it’s overarching album counterpart. A song detailing the fictitious town of Nowhere, thriving in rural farmlands the 1930s, “Devils” plunges the listener into a somewhat already active story and universe, wherein the people of Nowhere face the fury of nature’s dust storms. Listeners come into the story when the town’s residents have proceeded to confine themselves to their homes as the best way to gain safety and shelter from the danger but are facing the resulting stagnancy, which is leading to ragged emotions, dark thoughts, evil urges and an utter disintegration of previously strong community bonds.
Tell me what I’m running from,
where I’m going,
where should I lay my head at night?
What can I do to dull these voices?
scraping on the insides
– Lyrics from “Devils”
The sonic aesthetic of “Devils” doesn’t stray far from its opening establishment bars of heavy droning chords and plodding, aggressive downbeats – especially with regard to the deliberate, severe splash of Pots’ cymbal hits. But that decision is artistically fitting for a song revolving around a combination of cabin fever, mental stubbornness, and emotional erosion due to unrelenting forces outside one’s control. The specific choice of dust storm as the bearer of “villain” in this scenario makes for quite the driving visual allusion to boot, as the thickness of dustbowl clouds can become installations of instant, futile, obstruction. The band’s instrumental backing is unwavering in its character in much the same way. The concept of “Devils” narrative and Crash the Calm’s inherent stylistic affinities pair together with an effortless fluidity, rather than a case where the band would might be interpreting a less naturally heavy situation through post-rock’s musically intense lens.
The matching grey, vintage film footage accompanying the song’s lyric video is merely visual icing on top of the dusty cake and shows just how committed Crash the Calm are to the concept that came about over two years back. This makes it clear that while the resonance of present events makes “Devils” feel all the more relatable, that the band – much like a severe dust storm – are not being delicate or fair weather about the personality and character motivations built into this merely beginning story. The focus of this project is just the first step in showing how this group are working to rebuild and when the storm passes and the dust truly settles, who knows what Crash the Calm will come to show. One thing is for certain: This is a thoroughly and carefully crafted concept and, as a first chapter in what is fundamentally a positive story of pushing through to the point of refreshed perseverance after unforeseen chaos, “Devils” can and should fill the airwaves this Halloween and beyond.
Keep up with Crash the Calm through these social media platforms.
Merch available through the band’s official online shop.