Alaska - Shrine

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Shrine out October 2, 2015
LP limited to 300 copies on random colored vinyl.

Bio: Contradiction has such negative connotations. As a concept, it is too often associated with hypocrisy and dishonesty and unintentional self-sabotage. But contradiction also resides at the heart of some of the most interesting art. Here, conflicting qualities not only exist side by side, but blend together, even build into something innovative; the result is often stirring and startling, the sort of challenging that changes the game.

Take Alaska, for example, whose brand of post-hardcore seems simultaneously delicate and intense. It’s a duality that shines on Shrine, the band’s sophomore full-length, allowing the record to stand out in a genre that specializes in either one or the other. A song like “Momming” showcases Nick Strader’s agile drumming, which flits around the warbling guitars like a hummingbird around blooming, bobbing flowers; these melodies are intricate, almost geometrical, but still feel full and stocky. Maybe it’s Joel Kirschenbaum’s fevered scream or the way Tyler Kawada’s bass bulges beneath the sonic acrobatics, but “Momming”—like the whirling “Hashish Christo” and “Beach Houser,” with its slapping, stamping beat—seems ferocious in its finesse, graceful in its aggression.

Shrine’s contradictions extend past mood and melody, though. They also emerge in vocal delivery—the way ornate poetry, screeched with such severity, appeals to the intellectual and primal—and actual lyrics. His guitar chimes on “Slowburner”beside Cody Furin’s spectral chords, which rises like stray stands of smoke in the distance. As the drums trample through the melodic landscape, Kirschenbaum sings, “Maybe out of tree, I'll go lightly between blue and green / in the darkness / Light black, I am lightly.” Shrine is rife with these poetic paradoxes—some subtle, some not so much. Even the album’s last lines, on “Bong Rips with the King of Heck,” display a contradicting image: “Patience is my friend,” Kirschenbaumscreams, “sometimes he sits just like a knife in the back / Feels like heaven because I've been waiting for that.”

Of course, it isn’t this melodic and lyrical complexity that makes Shrine a memorable record, nor is it the presence of so many compelling complications. Instead, it’s something much simpler: Alaska’s honesty, and the power with which it’s expressed. It’s the kind of conviction that makes the delicate intense, the intellectual primal, the light black, and a knife in the back feel like heaven.