That there’s light at the end of the tunnel is a cliché often rolled out to those going through a bad time. But what if that’s not true? What if the darkness of that tunnel just stretches on forever and there is no light, no salvation, no hope? Those were the circumstances of 2018’s We Are Alive Beyond Repair, the third full-length album from New Jersey’s Gatherers – sonically and lyrically, it’s a bleak, brutal, nihilistic record that’s shrouded in such despair and anguish that there’s no chance whatsoever for escape. And that’s just how the five-piece like it.
“We wanted this album to be as ugly and as horribly truthful as possible,” explains vocalist Rich Weinberger. “It has this very human but flawed connotation to it. It’s very pessimistic.”
Weinberger took, as he always has done, inspiration from visual art, while the band – completed by bassist Zach Crockett, drummer Adam Cichocki, and guitarists Anthony Gesa and Rob Talalai – sought to create a soundtrack to an imagined palette of colors, to create an atmosphere based on abstractions and turn it into something altogether more visceral and real.
“I was in a headspace at the time where I was very hyper-focused on various mediums of art that all had this underlying symptom of cynicism to them,” says Weinberger. “We’ve always been more of a visual band, so when we write albums, and specifically this one, when we write we’ll sometimes write with a music video in mind before the song comes to fruition.”
Gatherers newest offering, the single “Sick Sad Heart,” evokes many of the same harrowing images of the band’s most recent full-length: “You found my heart wrapped in bandage tape.” Weinberger sings in longing for understanding, layered with screams that weigh heavy on the song’s dark thematics. Static-laden, gritty instrumentals bolster a devastating lyrically-spun narrative. Yet simultaneously, “Sick Sad Heart” explores once-uncharted territory for the band, seeing not only the addition of bassist Zach Crockett but a foray into broader, more unsettling instrumentals.
“We wrote this over the course of a few rehearsals in January 2019. We wanted it to be moody but mechanical; melodically pretty but gross in tonality. This one lives in a completely different world from the songs on We Are Alive Beyond Repair. Rob [Talalai] primarily plays baritone guitar and an OP-1, creating this ugly identity for the song. The drums sound huge and dynamic with Adam [Cichocki]’s performance alongside our new bassist Zach Crockett. They pushed the song to move in ways completely different from our previous material,” says Weinberger.
“Anthony [Gesa]’s guitar sections created these massive backdrops for the song, especially during the outro… he created these moments that play out like a collision in slow motion. Musically, we were in part inspired by Radiohead’s “Climbing Up The Walls” and the album Full Collapse by Thursday. The lyrics were written from a visual place as always. Although there’s no singular subject at hand, for me the song conjured up themes and visuals of inheritance, evil, sexuality, paranoia and masochism. To me, this song is the kind of dream where your teeth start falling out. It’s this constant ringing stuck behind your eyes every minute of the hour. It exists under the skin, tempting you to cut it out. The song looks like the contrast of blood against the porcelain in your sink.”
It’s an approach that has produced a spine-chilling interpretation of what post-hardcore can be, one which is at once familiar but which pushes the boundaries of the genre to extremes. That constant wall of sound, built around layers of sumptuous but brooding atmospherics, is both powerful and fragile, simultaneously collapsing while it also holding all the fractured emotions contained within its folds in place. And although We Are Alive Beyond Repair and “Sick Sad Heart” evoke different landscapes, taken together, the releases weave a complicated yet cohesive sonic quilt; a savage but thrilling journey into that dark, never-ending tunnel of nihilism.