The last ten years has seen the mushrooming of an important and flourishing progressive post rock / post metal /math rock scene in Australia, much centred around Sydney. Melbourne’s Laura had passed the baton to the likes of Meniscus and sleepmakeswaves, while We Lost The Sea started playing around in that blackgaze space – not Deafheaven or Alcest, not Cult of Luna, but bringing some new ideas with their first release Crimea.
Then with their second release in 2012, The Quietest Place on Earth, We Lost The Sea had found their style and were poised to push forward, before the tragic loss of singer Chris Torpy.
Their momentum broken, they hit back two years later with the four stories of sacrifice in Departure Songs without a vocalist. As great as the album was, it relied heavily on a couple of spoken word passages and long intros. It was as though there was not enough confidence to tell a story with music alone, and it meant less of the light and shade was provided by guitar, bass, drums and keys. Closing an album of pure crescendocore, “Challenger Part II” is as triumphant and melancholic a build-up and release as you will ever hear, but we were left with a degree of structural sameness that sold their ability short.
It’s taken four years to release a follow-up: Triumph & Disaster. And it’s certainly a triumph. Built of seven tunes, the epilogue with vocals from Louise Nutting (Wartime Sweethearts), everything good about Departure Songs is there, with a whole lot more. If the code for Departure Songs is found in A Quiet Place, Triumph & Disaster owes more to A Day and Night of Misfortune: Day, but that comparison shows just how much more thought and effort, not to mention experience, went into the new record. I can only imagine the discussions held over which note should be played next.
There are themes that reappear through the album and within songs. A wailing alarm appears as a warning at the opening, only to find it was an unheeded portent as the end of the world is soundtracked by a far more desperate and distressed siren. Within each song phrases and riffs come and go and return, and there is so much depth and variation in the structure and moods and between the songs.
Gone is the reliance on crescendocore, with “Towers” and “The Last Sun” each starting off at full strength with those sirens. Which is not to say we don’t get that powerful and emotional build-up because we do, but WLTS have brought a whole new level of complexity to these tunes.
Where Departure Songs was all about the destinations, Triumph & Disaster is about the journey. It’s a very different experience.
It’s hard not to feel a strong influence from Tangled Thoughts of Leaving, or at least some commonality of ideas and influence, and indeed Ron Pollard appears as a guest on the album and has sat in on performances of “Towers” in recent shows while supporting Russian Circles. What this marriage means apart from subtle intertwined melodies and interlocking phrases, is the intense driving moodiness and darkness that underlies so much of the album.
WLTS already knew how to create long, heavy, driving, repetitious passages and contrast them with sprinklings of dynamic, fluid exploration. Five years of playing Departure Songs has simply given them a treasure chest of ideas that have taken them to the next level of telling a story without words.
And it’s a bleak story. We all die. What can I say? We didn’t listen. If “Give Peace A Chance” and Edwin Starr’s “War” were the songs of the peace movement, it’s hard not to feel right now that Triumph & Disaster isn’t the tragic theme for Greta Thunberg’s address to the UN:
“We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money.”
Triumph & Disaster is out October 4 via Bird’s Robe Records (Australia) and October 25 via Translation Loss (US), Holy Roar (UK) and Dunk!Records (EU).
We Lost The Sea links:
Review by Gilbert Potts. Follow him on Twitter: https://twitter.com/GlbrtPtts1
Photos by Bern Stock of Intrepid Photography.
Taken at Manning Bar in Sydney when We Lost The Sea opened for Russian Circles.