Throat - Smile Less | Album Review

With a name like Throat, you might expect some fast-paced shouty hardcore – something a bit…well….throaty. Think again. The only certainty with the four-piece Finnish rock band is that nothing is certain.

Their new album is titled Smile Less. Their web address and all their social media uses the moniker ‘ihatethroat’. It’s clear from the get-go this band are a little off the wall, and one listen to their brand-new record will confirm it (although we heartily recommend more than one listen). Their third full length, released via Svart Records, is an absolute masterpiece of craft, genre-blending and surprising twists and turns, guaranteed to put you in a dark yet happy mood.

Initially, when the repetitive post-punk drone of ‘Conveyor Line’ kicks in you could be forgiven for thinking you’ve got the number on this band and know what’s coming next - but strap yourselves in because the ride is only just getting started. Evil-sounding and atmospheric, ‘Conveyor Line’ is an aptly titled song which accurately depicts the dull monotony of such a form of work through its baritone vocals and rolling basslines. The relentless cascading drums add to this dreary factory atmosphere, beating out hypnotic rhythms which offer no respite until the dropped out middle section four minutes in. “This time it’s personal…” The vocals are almost painfully half screamed as it builds to the drop and a moment of delicate guitars breaks the tension.

“It’s all downhill from here,” it says in next track ‘Grounding’ although, for the listener, it’s all uphill as the album moves from strength to strength. None of it is very cheerful so far but it’s not supposed to be. The album is called ‘Smile Less’, after all. There’s some surprising harmonies creeping in on this one, which help to layer up the sound and add to the dynamics this blatantly talented band can offer. And let’s just talk about that guitar solo at 3.50 for a second. Or perhaps not. It has to be heard to be fully appreciated.

Even at this point, however, as we approach the end of the second track, the album still feels like it’s all on the same page. As a listener, you think you what to expect, with the Ian Curtis-esque vocals lulling you into a false sense of security. Then they throw you an absolute curveball with third track ‘Shots’. A dirty, attitude drenched rocker which actually does have a twist of hardcore to it, the vocal delivery is totally different and the album suddenly has a completely different vibe as a result. It’s upbeat and fast paced, a jumping-up-and-down-in-the-pit style number with an industrial metal twist, like a cross between Nine Inch Nails and American Nightmare. It’s the most obvious choice for a (slightly) more mainstream single but would definitely give a false impression of the rest of the record, the issue being that every song is unique and different in its own way. Although it’s less of an issue and more of a virtue.

After a shot of ‘Shots’, we’re back to the driving constant of repeated, hypnotic riffs over which the track slowly builds. But on ‘Deadpan’ the low down, deep vocals have disappeared. This time, the delivery is more casual, spoken and that Trent Reznor vibe can really be heard in places. The experimental ‘Home Is Where Your Hurt Is’ starts with just drums. Literally just drums, for quite some time, thumping out an alternate tom-beat of ten beats, followed by eleven beats. It’s a combination which is so off-kilter to a standard song structure that it slightly messes with one’s mind while listening to it. Bringing in some electronics and industrial samples to layer up over the top, the track slowly gets more evil and more imposing as it goes along. “There’s nothing…there’s nothing for you here…” It’s not an easy listen, but it’s also impossible to turn off. And when the guitars finally get thrown into the mix, the pay off is so satisfying it was worth the torturous wait.

‘Vanilla Cuts’ is another one that feels a bit more like a single. It has a slightly more traditional song structure and there’s even some moments where it feels slightly catchy, as if you might (possibly) be able to sing along. With an extremely satisfying chorus, this track is penultimate track is perfectly placed to build towards the climactic finish of the record and with once again a glorious little lead guitar moment. Powerful, dramatic and triumphant, ‘Hospice’ is a great way to end an extremely impressive record, combining all the elements which make this band so unique and satisfying in one track. There’s something oddly classic rock sounding about this one too, as if you can imagine it being played Main Stage at Download just before Iron Maiden.

If you haven’t heard of Throat yet, now is your time to get on board and make sure to give this one multiple listens. You’ll notice something different every time and it just keeps getting better.

Score: 9/10

Smile Less is released May 14th via Svart Records Records.

Pre-order the record here.