Without any official testing, we can safely say that the master recording for Onwards to the Wall is the loudest one ever submitted to the label for approval. Usually, we crank the volume to catch any digital pops or hisses that may foil a master. But this one we actually had to — ashamedly — put at half volume. This thing is pummeling. And amid this sonic whipping, a smile stretches across our faces. There’s no other way to capture the music of A Place To Bury Strangers than just beyond the boundary of what’s considered properly loud. Produced, engineered, mixed and mastered by APTBS themselves, this is the sound of a band in control of making out of control music.
So yes, Onwards to the Wall packs every bit of the searing sonic maelstrom listeners have come to expect (nay, demand!) from APTBS. Yet, the adroit songcraft that’s always been there is brought more the fore, pop hooks are repurposed and more instantly recognizable. Now joined by bassist Dion Lunadon, formerly of The D4, Ackerman has found a crucial companion in pulling timeless melodies from their jet engine textures. Standout “So Far Away” takes all the pure pop perfection of The Box Tops’ “The Letter” and shoots it through with a barely-harnessed dark energy and snarling propulsion. The title track carries a similar balance of classic, 60s-pop hooks and doomed-out vibes, employing a boy-girl vocal tradeoff that’s at once both sexy and menacing. A handful of contemporary bands are currently exploring the new limits of loud. And here, APTBS proves that they have not only been leading that charge for some time now, but that they are also evolving and maturing on those front lines.
Onwards to the Wall is a fresh, complete artistic statement from APTBS. It’s a new chapter, a prelude for what awaits us on the horizon. It is a taste of greatness to come.