Rope Sect – Estrangement Review

The road of metal is wide and its shoulders are nebulous. Whenever we stray the AMG vehicle off this road for a gander at the related and adjacent, it’s always with good reason, be it previous tenures of band members, genres closely tied to metal, or a suspected appeal to the same market. The stats page shows that non-metal things score quite consistently above average, so you can be assured that when we tred on our own rulebook, you won’t be disappointed. Which brings us to Rope Sect, an anonymous band that plays despondent goth rock in the vein of Bauhaus, yet got itself signed to a label known primarily for death and black metal. Though only existing next door to our chosen obsession, The Great Flood won a lot of hearts back in 2020, including mine. How will Estrangement hold up?

On a scale of ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ to ‘standing still is going backwards,’ Rope Sect skews in favor of the former. The evolution from The Great Flood to Estrangement is a study in details; songwriting slightly more consistent, guitars dropping the amount of jangle from 8 to 6, a beat per minute that get lost along the way. Most of the remainder is a direct continuation of the predecessor. The somber vocals intone with such dead-eyed despondency they almost approach sprechsgesang, the guitars draw a perfect balance between memorable hooks and ominous atmosphere, and the compositions are uniformly clean and concise. Rope Sect knows its trade inside out, and there is something to be said for sticking to what you’re best at when the results are this good.

All the small things do add up to a different experience, though. Estrangement smooths out the rougher edges of The Great Flood, scooching from metallic post-punk into less abrasive rock territory. If radio hadn’t turned into a cesspool of mumble rap and TikTok soundbites, some of these tracks would not be out of place there. And it’s hard not to feel like something got lost in the transition. A sense of danger, perhaps. The feeling that no one is entirely in control of the ship, and the foreboding dark sea harbors sharp rocks under the surface. That dark pull is not completely gone on Estrangement, but it has lessened and decreased the distinctive character of the band with it. Only closer “Rope of the Mundane Love” resurrects this feeling, thanks to an aggressively ominous bass-forward riffing style and Peter Steele-type vocals in the verses.

Though the frame is less enticing, the picture within remains very well drawn. From the lilting vocal lines of opener “Revel in Disguise” to the way “Nefelibatas” builds into its melancholy, and from the high energy hypnotism of “L’Appel Du Vide” to the infectious hopelessness of “Massenmensch,” Rope Sect has crafted a sleek tribute to disconnection with nary a minute of fat across its entire runtime. There’s not a weak song among the bunch, and the final portion is the strongest, with the aforementioned dark closer ending on a high after its perfectly depressing predecessor “Hindsight Bias” brings you to your lowest. If not the most engaging or unique album of the year, Estrangement is surely one of the most listenable ones, gliding down as smooth as the silk that lines the coffin.

It took me some time to make up my mind about Estrangement. Its low-friction nature and memorable, hook-filled songwriting make it easy to absorb, and Rope Sect’s jaded nature is largely intact. Yet I find myself wanting a bit more friction at times, something that sets the album apart from the background. The production exemplifies this as well; it’s warm, and rich, with a balanced mix and smooth tones on the strings, but it is overpolished as well, which cost the album character and impact. I still like Estrangement quite a bit, and I will return to it when I need my sadness quote filled without taking a belt sander to the brain. I just won’t reach for it when I truly want to engage with an album; for that, Rope Sect’s prior material remains a better option.


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Iron Bonehead
Websites: ropesect.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/theropesect
Releases Worldwide: May 17th, 2024

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