A raw, multi-layered fusion of noise, sludge and grunge by three old men from Chicago who still like to play rock music.
Describing themselves as “three old men who still like to play rock music“, Chicago, Illinois-based three-piece outfit Escape Is Not Freedom definitely knows how to combine elements of rock, noise, sludge and grunge in their creations, resulting is a feast of catchy and melodic sounds reminiscent of Nirvana, Soundgarden and The Melvins, to name a few. After the releases of their debut EP The Truants, in 2015, and their first full-length albums Goldsmith, in 2017, it’s time for Mike Gussis on vocals and guitar, Josh Parlette (from Soul Attrition, whose album Vashon Rain was reviewed at The Headbanging Moose not a long time ago) also on vocals and on bass and Darrin Wolf on drums to blast more of their first-class Sludge and Noise with their sophomore full-length effort, titled Surrounded By The Great Nothing. Produced by Shane Hochstetler at Howl Street Recordings and mastered by Carl Saff at Saff Mastering, Surrounded By The Great Nothing continues to blend the band’s personal experiences with their dark humor and, of course, with an endless amount of distortions and noise, cementing the trio as one of the most interesting names of the genre not only in their hometown but also in the international scene.
And eerie, distorted noises already permeate the air in the opening track Brick, a modern-day Sludge and Stoner Metal tune with Mike kicking ass with his enraged riffs and deranged vocals while Josh and Darrin keep the atmosphere as thunderous as possible with their rumbling instruments, resulting in a thrilling welcome card by the band for newcomers to their musical world. Their powerful exhibit of madness and distortions goes on in Boomslang, with Darrin dictating the pace with his classic beats, alternating between more obscure, heavier moments and serene and melancholic passages; followed by Freezer Burn, where the band ventures through more contemporary styles such as Post-Metal and Indie Rock. Moreover, Mike continues to bark and roar rabidly while Josh blasts sheer heaviness through his bass punches, getting darker and more piercing as the music progresses.
Portraying a truly austere name, Drinking Bleach is a slashing and crisp song where the insanity flowing from Mike’s screams is effectively complemented by his dirty riffs and Darrin’s crushing beats, turning it into one of the most incendiary songs of the album, whereas Leonard is another solid display of Sludge and Post-Metal featuring the scorching guitars by Mike and the ominous bass punches by Josh, recommended for fans of the most aggressive side of Nirvana and going on for over eight minutes with all band members putting us on some sort of grim trance. Then, as opposed to its predecessor, Ruined Ground brings a more serene and introspective vibe, with Josh darkly declaiming its lyrics while Darrin smashes his drums slowly and steadily, bringing a good amount of distress to our hearts.
Back to a more vicious sonority, the trio offers the melodic and mesmerizing Underwater Birth, where Mike and Josh are in absolute sync with their metallic strings, resulting in an amazing option for banging your head alone in the dark and letting their Sludge Metal penetrate deep inside your mind, while in Slowly Falling off a Cliff it’s time to slam into the circle pit to the crushing metal music blasted by those three rockers, again fluctuating between demented sounds and ethereal moments and, consequently, elevating the album’s aggressiveness and wickedness to a whole new level, all spiced up by Mike’s flammable riffs. The second to last song from the album, Acid Blood, sounds like a more obscure version of Alice In Chains infused with Sludge Metal nuances, with Josh adding tons of groove to the music with his bass, not to mention this is perhaps the song where he delivers his most personal vocal performance. And lastly acoustic guitars ignite the closing tune entitled Rhea, evolving into a dense and melancholic extravaganza where Josh and Darrin bring forward a precise balance between heaviness and finesse.
In a nutshell, although Escape Is Not Freedom might not be considered a pure metal band, I personally believe they have what it takes to conquer the hearts of most metalheads from all over the world with their heavier-than-usual rock and grunge, with Surrounded By The Great Nothing being the perfect depiction of what they’re capable of and what we can expect in their future releases. Hence, don’t forget to follow Mike, Josh and Darrin on Facebook, and to buy Surrounded By The Great Nothing from their own BandCamp page, where you can by the way find all of their previous albums for sale as well. As the name of the band states, escaping from someone or something doesn’t necessarily mean freedom, but at least the music found in Surrounded By The Great Nothing can provide you a very entertaining escape from your daily struggles.
Best moments of the album: Drinking Bleach, Underwater Birth and Slowly Falling off a Cliff.
Worst moments of the album: Boomslang.
Released in 2020 Independent
1. Brick 4:46
2. Boomslang 5:22
3. Freezer Burn 4:07
4. Drinking Bleach 4:03
5. Leonard 8:14
6. Ruined Ground 6:09
7. Underwater Birth 5:33
8. Slowly Falling off a Cliff 5:25
9. Acid Blood 6:14
10. Rhea 5:45
Mike Gussis – vocals on “Brick”, “Freezer Burn”, “Drinking Bleach”, “Leonard” and “Underwater Birth”, guitar
Josh Parlette – vocals on “Boomslang”, “Ruined Ground”, “Slowly Falling off a Cliff”, “Acid Blood” and “Rhea”, bass
Darrin Wolf – drums