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Album Review // AS IT IS ‘The Great Depression’

As It Is make a resounding mark with The Great Depression, an album that will change not only the way you think about the band, but the way you think about life.

As It Is return with a record that holds a mirror up to society, making astute observations on difficult topics that few can put into words, let alone make into music. Yet the band has done just that, crafting a brutally honest record that will prompt you to think again by asking you questions that do not necessarily have an answer to them. As frontman Patty Walters explains:

“This record started off life as an exploration of the question ‘Do we as a society have a fetish for mental illness? Do we romanticise or glorify a sickness? It was important for me to do some soul-searching around that question. Are we part of a scene that actually does more damage than good in terms of the way we talk about these issues?”

To confront these questions, the album has been split into four stages: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, and Acceptance. Opening is titular track The Great Depression, where a noticeable shift in the band’s sound can be heard immediately. We’re greeted instantly, as the first lines on the record sing “Hello consumer”. Accompanied by finger clicks and plucked guitar notes, you’re addressed and left nowhere to hide from the onslaught of questions to come. There’s noticeably more aggression in following The Wounded World, as heartfelt riffs prevail and chants of “We’re all to blame for the wounded world” are hammered into your head. Filthy riffing in The Fire, The Dark complement the rough grit in Walters’ voice as he switches between clean and harsh vocals in the verses.

We turn to the anger chapter with The Stigma (Boys Don’t Cry), although the mournful introduction may have hinted otherwise at first. As the drums kick in after the first chorus and pummel into you, there’s a heavy layering of sarcasm as we build throughout the track. We climax at the bridge, where Walters mockingly scolds “Keep it all inside, because boys don’t cry”, and his anger at this statement is almost tangible through the speakers. As tumbling drums open The Handwritten Letter, the bridge can accurately depict the chaos of our minds as faded vocals are layered over, spilling into each other. Melancholy laces the acoustic arrangement in The Question, The Answer, and the rawness displayed in the poignant lyricism is sure to tug at your heartstrings.

Staccato jabs in The Reaper introduce the bargaining stage, and Walters vocalises the disbelief that we sometimes feel with “Is this real? Is this really happening?”. Menace creeps in slowly in the beginning of The Two Tongues (The Screaming Salvation), before cultivating in an unrestrained instrumental section with soaring melody lines and a flourishing display of drums.

Acceptance begins with The Haunting, and as groovy bass lines underline the verses, a message is directly addressed to you. Returning to an acoustic arrangement for The Hurt, The Hope, the difference of the track title is reflected in the music as we move between somber melodies to a rousing pre-chorus. The End offers an exclusive insight, as we hear of personal struggles and Walters cries “Nobody’s listening / Straining our lungs to be heard”.

The Great Depression will undoubtedly make you reflect and think, as the band recount struggles and ask questions that are both profoundly personal yet feel universal. It’s an album that belongs to both the listener and the band.