Written by Ellis Heasley
Sludge, noise, doom, screamo… Brighton’s Aerosol Jesus promises a lot for their second EP Survive, but, to be fair to them, all that and more is there over the record’s 24-minute runtime. Its five tracks, whose titles spell out the phrase ‘Cowards Survive, Others Just Drown’, go to a lot of different musical places – all of which are utterly nasty and devoid of joy.
Survive insists on its listeners attention from its very first seconds. Opener Cowards explodes straight into abrasive sludgy riffing as vocalist Oli Melville lets out a deranged cry of the song’s title. It kicks off an apocalyptically heavy and almost sadistically violent couple of minutes that definitely evoke the wild, sludgy noise metal of a band like Will Haven. Things die down a bit after it for the EP’s second and title track. This one starts with a slow and ominous guitar before the rest of the band come in for something more thoughtful and doomy. It’s definitely less chaotic than its predecessor but no less heavy. We get the first real glimpse of Aerosol Jesus’ screamo influences around the three-minute mark when the band launch into a section the likes Orchid would be proud of. This is broadly where they stay for the rest of the track, although they still throw in a healthy dose of sludge.
Melville is definitely the obvious and central star throughout Survive. For this record, the Aerosol Jesus frontman sought to focus on mental health issues, specifically by detailing panic attacks, personal failures, and ongoing struggles. Unsurprisingly, this provides fuel for some pretty bleak stuff that makes for a great match with the band’s music. Melville shines – if you can call it that – all over this record, but few tracks illustrate his range and ability as well as the EP’s third, Others. Here, he starts the track with dour spoken vocals as the band provides a gathering storm of noise behind him. Eventually, this gives way to tortured howling screams which sit atop a suffocating sludge which draws firm Neurosis comparisons.
As punishing as Survive is, the band are kind enough to give listeners a break of sorts on fourth track Just. This one features clean guitars, swelling cymbals and distant atmospherics which back a miserable Melville as he delivers a despondent spoken monologue. While the song does get progressively noisier, this relative break is definitely a good move. Crucially, it prevents the record from becoming utterly overwhelming in its savagery, even if it is still very bleak.
Survive is excellent from start to finish, but Aerosol Jesus arguably save the best till last with its devastating closing track, Drown. It features guest vocals from Tanya Byrne of doom legends Bismuth, who trades repeated tortured cries of (You are watching me drown) with Melville over absolutely crushing doom. Once again, it’s punishing, nasty stuff which finally ends with a couple of minutes of more gentle clean guitars and softer drums that definitely leans into shoegaze territory.
Overall, Survive is surely one of the best EPs of the year so far. While the band obviously marry a lot of different things together in a relatively short space of time, it’s only jarring when they want it to be. There’s definitely a good flow here, and a consistent sense of identity which runs through all the territory Aerosol Jesus chart on the record. Most of all, it’s an EP that’s sure to be a sight to behold in a live setting if and when the band get a chance to share it with us.