There’s something lurking in the blackened pockets and hidden corners in Ohio. It’s not a new phenomenon; just look back at the explosion of sounds that came out of the 70s: the no- and new-wave punk anarchy from bands like the Bizarros, the Pagans, and a small band called Devo turned cities like Cleveland and Akron into a hotbed of incredible music. Although not couched in the same style, Pillärs takes its cue from the same spark that drove the furious creativity of those bands, and in debut album Abandoned craft a pummeling assault of crust-laden noise that provides a righteous soundtrack to the beginning of 2018.
I’ve made no secret of my love for the trio format, and Pillärs delivers a crushing package with the combined might of Zach G. on guitars and vocals, Beth Anne on bass and vocals, and Mike Burrows on drums. Nine Circles profiled the band back in 2016 when they released their demo, and the early versions of “Last Rites,” “Nothing Left,” “Walking Ghost” and “Behind the Wall” displayed the promise of a band in the midsts of coalescing, fusing a rough, coarse hybrid of crust and hardcore against some beautifully realized lyrics concerning loss, spirituality, and justified anger at an uncaring establishment. The coming together of these seemingly disparate elements holds fast regardless of the tempo, with no cares to whether crushing speed or ominous doom takes the fore for each track.
Abandoned takes those four earlier songs, adds four more, and significantly ups the production and tightness to deliver the first truly great album I’ve heard in 2018. Opening with “Last Rites” into the absolutely punishing riffs of “Nothing Left” is a holdover from the demo, but here with the sounds opens up to swallow you whole. Burrows’s cymbals on “Last Rites” are deafening, bringing you right into the middle of the band’s assault until a squall of feedback launches into the dirge blues of “Nothing Left” and its striking story of oblivion. It was my favorite track from the demo, and it’s even more of a beast here, but it’s brilliance is offset by new tracks like the blistering “Through the Storm” and “Beneath the Ice” which fit right in while expanding the scope of the band’s capabilities.
If there’s a real winner here for me, it’s in the newfound sonic clarity of the somber “Walking Ghost.” Coming at the halfway point on Abandoned as opposed to closing the record (that honor falls to “Behind the Wall”), it’s a much-needed breather from the fury of the preceding tracks. Although the strength in playing from Zach and Beth are evident all over the album, there’s something about the space “Walking Ghost” uses that really emphasizes their cohesion, and how giving the song a little air makes everything stand out that much more. Lyrically it’s the song that affects me the most, the harmonized refrain of “ the wounds will heal in time / you will see the other side / the wind will be your guide / the wind will be your guide” never failing to send shivers though me. The monster riff that follows it only serves to accentuate the words even more.
I wasn’t expecting to have something knock me this much out of the park so early in 2018, but in Abandoned Pillärs have crafted an immensely moving work that refused to relent in its attack, holding fast to the ideals that have made Ohio such an amazing breeding ground for great music. This is something you need to feel in your head, your heart, and you veins; don’t sleep on it.