Supergroups are a bit like black holes. They attract hype and attention to themselves like droves, all too often crushing them in the gravity of their expectations. Sometimes though, they can lead to transcendent experiences, like whatever happened to Matthew McConaughey in Interstellar.
And then there’s Fiddlehead.
After just two albums, Fiddlehead had proven themselves to be a vital force in the punk scene, bypassing all comparisons to their previous releases by offering a vibrant and unique voice.
On Death is Nothing to Us, the third in an unintentional trilogy about grief, they continue to thrive under the pressure of their own gravity.
On their previous releases, Fiddlehead managed to capture the urgency and passion of hardcore with a pop sensibility that is often completely lacking in that genre. Songs were half-sung in a throat-shredding bark over jangling guitar riffs and merciless drums. While that recipe isn’t tweaked too much (thank God), the ingredients have more depth to them than ever. There’s a bit more space to the songs. The tempo slows down a little more often. The vocals have some moments of gentleness. But somehow, the impact on the overall energy is negligible.
That instrumental depth goes hand in hand with the lyrics. Pat Flynn’s perspective on his own grief has broadened with time, revealing a deceptive cycle in the day-to-day milieu of loss. He calls it a “stickiness” in the press release. And anyone who has been similarly bereaved will recognize that endless spiral winding out through the songs. The most potent is the mid-album track “Give It Time (II),” the most downtempo song the group has offered yet, which meditates on the unceasing monotony of support groups and twelve-step programs punctuated by the looming shadow of relapse.
Bookended on either side with shouty, uptempo tracks, “Give It Time” might not seem very remarkable, but it’s a bit of a Trojan horse. The slowdown might seem like a chance to catch your breath, but the cyclical lyrics get into your head and dig themselves in, laying bare the darkness that you might have missed in the louder songs.
But just like the gentle catchiness of that track, there is often an allure to the thought of not recovering—to wallowing in your grief like a pig in mud. Flynn knows how attractive that idea is, and more importantly, how dangerous it is. Death is Nothing to Us is at once an acknowledgment of that feeling and an attempt to escape it. And it has all the excitement and drama you would find in a prison break movie.
And yeah, that’s not exactly the metaphor you would usually make for an album this full of lament, but it fits. Fiddlehead has demonstrated time and time again that they have an uncanny talent for making even the darkest bits of grief exciting. Death is Nothing to Us is further proof of their ability to be both authentically passionate and attractively catchy without compromising either.
Death is Nothing to Us is available now through Run For Cover Records.