As we approach the Days of Lists, you can expect to hear writers complain and/or praise the year in metal for what it gave us. I lean toward the camp that thinks 2018 wasn’t a banner year for the genre, and as partial proof of that, I spent more time spinning a non-metal album than almost anything else I came across. That album is Alarms! by the Swedish post-punk, Goth-rock act, The Exploding Boy. We received the promo from Drakkar Entertainment, and upon sampling it, decided its slick, earwormy take on 80s new wave goth wasn’t right for the site, but I kept spinning it on my own time. It’s like a wondrous wormhole back to the mopey and nihilistic salad days of The Cure1 and Depeche Mode, and the writing is nothing short of brilliant. It recaptures the feel of its target era with uncanny accuracy as it wiggles its way deep under your skin.
This is one of those albums where every single song works like a charm, benefiting and getting amplified by the cuts surrounding it. Opener “Fireland (The End of Dark City)” is a great introduction to what the band is all about – heavy synths, minimalist riffs and the melancholic, moody crooning of Stefan Axell. The presentation is stark and stripped down, but so catchy and memorable it only takes a few minutes to get a hold of you and suck you in. “In Silence” screams 80s punk protest rock until it blossoms into a huge chorus even vintage U2 would have killed for. The hits just keep right on coming too. “Run Red” is probably my most played song of the year across all genres, and I just can’t get enough of its morose, The Smiths-like atmosphere and its war hammer of a chorus. Bleak anthems to a crumbling society and civilization’s internal rot shouldn’t be this addictive, but cuts like “The Day” and “Stop Time” simply cannot be denied. Axell is the very epitome of the long-suffering Goth-rock frontman, perpetually sounding pained and angsty, and there’s just enough aggression and urgency to sell it all to a metal crowd.
I could point you to any of the eleven tracks and you’d find a winner in each and every one. Alarms! is that good of an album. Not a note out-of-place, just one sadboy gem after another. Regardless of genre, that’s quite the achievement, and one deserving of recognition. Therefore, I heartily encourage you all to hunt this thing down and give it a shot. If you have an ear for Goth and post-punk, you certainly won’t be disappointed.
Tracks to Check Out: “Fireland (The End of Dark City),” “In Silence,” and “Run Red”