I once had a roommate who assured me Converge was “really just noise.” At one point in his life he had played guitar for a metal band, so my naïve young self believed him. My surprise when I finally listened to Jane Doe and was blown away by the sheer emotion inherent in the spastic, ballistic dissonance. Idylls have much the same thing going on – traditional melody is eschewed, and at times, it does sound like four guys trapped in a room trying to make as much commotion as possible. The beauty of Prayer for Terrene is how it unveils itself to be so much more than that.
Despite bearing stylistic similarities to those New Englanders (and, I’m sure, plenty of hardcore acts that I’m not hip enough to know about), Idylls hail from the far away land of Brisbane, Australia. The quartet formed in 2009 and released their debut Farewell All Joy in 2012. Prayer for Terrene is their newest record after 2013’s Indian Circle EP. It’s also their most outright insane. I know adjectives like “abrasive,” “pissed-off,” and “noisy” are hardly convincing to those not fond of this stuff, but Idylls are different for two important reasons: one, they actually have interesting ideas; and two, they have a fucking saxophone player.
It’s there on the first and longest track, the near-seven minute “Lied To.” After the initial cacophony morphs into a lurching chug that feels catchy if only because of how discernable it sounds, brassy saxophone wails begin weaving distraught melodies through the dissonance. Soon things unravel into an unsorted heap of blasting crash cymbals, air-siren guitar wails, and the high-register, self-mutilating screams of vocalist Agador Spartacus. Idylls claim Prayer was recorded live to tape, and it certainly sounds that way: the instrumental outro of “Lied To,” “Fagged Out On The Beach,” showcases the natural, freehanded drumming and prominent, slinky bass that recurs throughout Prayer, while straight ahead grinders “Sow Control” and “Animal Test” tear through furious staccato riffing that recall a quicker, more unhinged Napalm Death, with a raw passion and looseness that’s unique (even for a hardcore band) in today’s norm of click tracks and Pro Tools.
The production perfectly complements the insanity, clearly presenting each disparate element while nicely balancing the searing treble and rumbling low-end. The DR of 6 isn’t the highest, but it’s hardcore – it’s supposed to hit you like a brick. There’s more than just bludgeoning and broken bottles, though. “PCP Crazy” is the aptly-named aftermath of a five-day drug binge, forsaking aggression for a marching drumbeat with a wacky bassline and drugged-out Sex Pistols caterwauls. Perhaps the catchiest moment is the bizarre surf-rock-esque rhythm break on “Crashing Boar,” even more startling after the preceding bout of blinding Discordance Axis riffing. But it’s when the saxophone shines that things really get cool, as when it subs in for guitars during parts of “Animal Test” and “Denigrating In the Tanks,” or blows a spazzed-out solo in the final seconds of closer “Terraform.”
For another band this might all be a confused mess – here, the craziness just works. Idylls, apparently, are disgusted with the world, angered by what they see around them, and frustrated to the point of insanity by their powerlessness to do anything about it. Take the final minutes of the opener, when the band seem stuck endlessly ruminating over some past injustice. Time signatures and scales get thrown out the window for disharmonic chord-bashing as Agador repeatedly screams “Lied to! Lied to! Lied to!” Moments like these keep me coming back and set Prayer apart as one of those great records that get better with each listen. It’s not pretty, but don’t let first impressions put you off – this is so much more than just noise.
Tracks to check: “Lied To,” “Animal Test,” and “Crashing Boar”