On their 2018 album ‘Bareback’, noise rockers Throat created a sound that took the darkness of goth, the angular elements of post punk and the abrasiveness of industrial to create a record that was one of rock’s most confronting since The Birthday Party bowed out with ‘The Bad Seed’ in the early 80s. Sometimes sounding like Die Haut, sometimes like Fugazi crossed with something much darker, It’s fair to say, the album wouldn’t have been for everyone, but the way Throat took their influences, pushed forth and created something contemporary for the time of release was more than admirable.
Five years on, ‘We Must Leave You’ presents a Throat that’s sometimes barely recognisable from their former selves. Yes, a couple of tunes share the same dark DNA as the band’s previous moody fare like ‘Safe Unsound’, but if you’re hoping to find more of ‘Hospice’s post-hardcore/Orange 9mm inspirations, something that tallies easily with the slow grind of ‘Recut’, or even the angular rock that cut through the centre of tracks like ‘Deadpan’ or ‘Vanilla Cuts’, you can pretty much forget it. This is a whole different animal; a less approachable beast. In the band’s own words, they’ve “left genres behind”, and sometimes it shows. It isn’t really that they’ve eschewed the idea of genre completely; more that they have the confidence to approach everything in a more fluid manner. Dark melodies sometimes pierce through the surface with a souped up re-invention of an 80s goth sound, and at other times, you’ll find traces of a heavy alternative rock guitar, but in the main, this album shares thirty five minutes’ worth of confronting bleakness.
‘Negative Life’ sets the even darker Throat sound in place with a repetitive drum loop and a mood that sounds like an obvious extension of The Cure’s ‘Pornography’ album. Against a cymbal-free, repetitive rhythm, cold guitars throw out occasional chords, and clanging post-goth notes, themselves too opting for a repetitious approach. An incredibly deep voice is laid the mechanised backdrop; a voice so deep that it almost becomes like extra instrumentation, as actual lyrics or messages are lost in the noise. In terms of taking light industrial and heavy goth to extremes – whilst never fitting comfortably into either bracket – it does a fine job, ending up sounding like a slowed down revisitation of an earlier Throat track, or the logical extension of something you might find buried deeply within the Decommissioned Forests catalogue. There’s a sense that Throat might merely be warming up here, though, and that hunch proves to be the case once ‘Heaven Hanged’ hits its stride with a whole world of repetitive tribal beats, grinding bass sounds and ominous guitar chords. Adding an ugly croon, everything begins to sound like a Theatre of Hate jam played back at a third of the speed. Using this as the main focus for the track, it’s dour artiness shows how well Throat can latch onto an unwavering rhythm. Without the distraction of too many musical layers or flashy solos, it’s down to the ominous tone to hold everything together, but it works. Using a heavy dream pop melody to break the tension along the way is a smart move, even if it never offers quite enough of a musical hook to pull in the less patient listener, but those able to put in the hard yards, listening wise, receive a massive reward midway when everything changes gears to unveil a faster, rhythm driven goth rock work out, where enthused/shouty vocals and a few angular melodies call back to a classic style. It all comes with a Throat-y twist, of course, so is rather more about mood than obvious hooks, but it sounds bloody fantastic with the volume cranked.
Delving back into the gloom, the first half of ‘Hearsay or Heresy’ places a creaking, crooned vocal against a chopping guitar part which manages to sound like the musical equivalent of a clock. You can hear the tension gradually winding, and the guitar chords are so loud, they drown out the vocal in places, and never allow the listener’s full attention to go elsewhere. Not that there’s much else to focus on; occasional bell-like sounds rise up but have nowhere to go, and an accompanying keyboard appears to be jammed onto the singular chord. An explosion of distorted guitar and shouting for a middle eight is almost frightening since the musical transition comes rather unexpectedly, but it isn’t long before the anger subsides and everything drops back to the original remit. More of an extended bad mood than a song, in many ways, this clanking, mid-tempo workout could be considered the flagship for the Throat sound at the close of ’23. Even more experimental, the lengthy ‘Valedictory’ places cymbal free drums beneath a wavering synth loop, setting up a droning sound that could easily play out forever. Arcs of distorted guitar weave in and out of the cold heart, always approached in a minimalist style, but just about big enough to keep things interesting, and the use of feedback is subtle yet smart. Another deep croon tips the hat to Bauhaus, and eventually an overdriven guitar cries through the gloom with an almost cinematic sound. Imagine one of the slow pieces on The Cure’s ‘Disintegration’ (‘Closedown’, ‘Plainsong’) played even more slowly and intensively and you’ll have half an idea of the sound here, but this is never a straight homage, or easy copy. The distinctive Throat darkness cuts through every note, ensuring this becomes a six minute tour de force of musical misery…in the best possible way.
Those looking for a little more of a tune will ultimately get their wish, thanks to ‘Trespassing’ sharing a classic sounding 80s goth bass groove and a haunting guitar, tapping into something that sounds like a Fields of The Nephilim tribute band, and ‘Tiny Golden Murder’s blend of goth and post-rock coming across a little like an early Mission tune played through a wall of distortion, but neither of these excursions into more obvious tunes make ‘We Must Leave You’ any more melodic or accessible as a whole. These, too, have a little more anger than your average gothy throwbacks, and Throat, despite showing how they can still summon a tune when really necessary, display a lot of sharp edges throughout. In a nod to previous work, these tracks are great, but it’s fair to say that this album is far more interesting when taking on more of a freewheeling approach, and thinking outside of the box.
Whenever people talk about albums being alternative and groundbreaking, they seldom are. It would be a big stretch to say that the seven tracks that make up ‘We Must Leave You’ sounded entirely unlike anything else, but few have taken grinding sounds, deep drone rock influences and post-goth ugliness to such brilliant extremes. Is it easy listening? Rarely. Does it take Throat forward into new sonic landscapes? Most of the time; but there’s a worry they’ve taken being obtuse so far this time around, that any future recordings could only shift sideways. Still, accepting this on its own terms, it’s both scary and marvellous prospect. ‘We Must Leave You’ is peak obtuseness from a band who never shied from pushing boundaries. You’re not likely to want to hear this album often, but seldom did anything sound so ugly and alluring at the same time.