SNEERS. were formed in 2012 by MG Blaankart (vocals, guitar) and Leonardo O. Stefenelli (drum) in Berlin, although they have since relocated to Rome, with Tales For Violent Days marking their fourth full-length to date and their second on God Unknown Records following 2018s Heaven Will Rescue Us, We’re The Scum, We’re In The Sun. The involvement of Kristof Hahn from Swans on their aforementioned preceding album (who doesn’t know of my obsession with that band by now?), being signed to God Unknown, and having the record mastered by the legendary John McBain (Monster Magnet/Wellwater Conspiracy) are all promising sure-fire signs of quality and why I decided to cover this; SNEERS. latest effort for The Shaman.
On opener For Violent Days, what strikes you from the off is the Diamanda Galás-esque vocals. It would be remiss of me not to warn readers in advance, who may be not accustomed to that particular style of singing, that its warbling tenor may not be for everyone. Luckily as a fan of Galás, it isn’t too much of a stretch for me and taken in conjunction with the Stephen Morris (Joy Division) influenced krautrock drumming and post-punk guitars, help make for a bleak if oddly comforting listen.
Ode To The Past reminds one of 1990s Dinosaur Jr and there is a slacker quality present, especially with the vocals shadowing J Mascis’ unique distinctive drawl. Black Earth Shining‘s plodding (in a good sense) acoustic arrangements and gothic alt-country atmospherics has you reaching for Swans’ post reunion output (think To Be Kind and Leaving Meaning) and Lies For Young Men pays tribute to the wondrous likes of early Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, as well as possessing shades of Rozz Williams (Christian Death/Shadow Project). Factor in some post-rock and shoegaze elements and you have all the ingredients for a truly majestic piece.
This is a fantastic album that blows open the doors to the underground…
Such is the slow build-up to As Old As The Gulf War I had to skip ahead slightly to ensure that there was actually some music to be had. The track ends as it starts, with what sounds to be the ominous low hum of a distant helicopter before an explosion of sound hits, presumably to emulate the impact of war as hinted at by the title. An average track which felt a little underwhelming and unnecessary if I’m honest.
Will I feel You is a subdued piece akin to Sonic Youth and a definite improvement on its predecessor, while A Fate Worse Than Death is a sprawling masterpiece at over seven minutes long and a hypnotic slice of psych giving the track a spiritual quality, at the same time also tapping into the spoken word post-rock of Enablers. About Defeats Desires & Demons continues the sprawling psych vibes and is definitely a track for traversing dusty plains post having indulged in one too many ‘herbal remedies’. The album concludes with One Day, a number which, like Swans, keeps you on edge, threatening to burst forth at any moment but manages to reign itself in before doing so.
I rarely agree with The Wire but their assessment of SNEERS. as ‘playing a southern gothic swampland voodoo’ is pretty much spot on. With Nick Cave still indulging his Leonard Cohen tendencies and Michael Gira fast approaching 70, SNEERS. summons the spirit of those great artists while simultaneously sounding contemporary and fresh. This is a fantastic album that blows open the doors to the underground (the band have in fact premiered on BBC6 Music), demonstrating that the more you persevere, the more likely you will find music of value.
Scribed by: Reza Mills