If you live in a dorm room double, you probably won’t ever be able to enjoy Blood on the Wall’s new album, “Liferz” — at least not the way it was meant to be enjoyed. The album is 36 minutes of lo-fi feedback, strained growling vocals and gritty guitar riffing. It’s the stuff that noise complaints are made of. The stuff of champions, really.
“Liferz” is the band’s third release, and Blood on the Wall shows no signs of slowing down or running out of steam. Their previous album, “Awesomer,” was a shot of distortion-infused adrenaline, but the Brooklyn-based trio obviously wasn’t satisfied. They’ve since streamlined their approach — basically, turned it up to 11.
Kicking off the album with the (ironically) frenzied “Hibernation,” Blood on the Wall makes clear its intention for the tracks that follow. “So let’s ride, every night until we die,” screams lead vocalist Brad Shanks. The lyrics to the rest of the song are probably equally forceful, but amid the crunching guitar riffs, they’re nearly unintelligible. “Why cant I be a one-eyed kid”? Maybe? Of course, the lyrics here are only incidental compared to the force of Brad’s emotive growl.
What can’t be missed about this track, though, is the complementary relationship between the brother-sister vocal duo — Brad yelling his heart out, Courtney phantom-singing in the background. The precedent is set. Brad drives the majority of the album with vocals that range from Black Francis of the Pixies to Gordon Gano of Violent Femmes (see final track “Acid Fight”). This would be a great vocal range, if it weren’t for the horrible moaning found somewhere in between, and most unfortunately employed on the track “Sorry Sorry Sarah.”
On the other hand is Courtney, the Kim Gordon to Brad’s Thurston Moore. As the gentler half of the vocal team, Courtney is the perfect foil to Brad, half-speaking and half-spitting out her words on melodic tracks such as “Rize.” Definitely the more universally appealing of the two, Courtney effectively channels the combination of pop and punk sensibilities that made the college campus favorites of the ’80s so great. Unlike her more consistently enraged brother, Courtney leads her songs with a raw emotion that even at its most boiled never grates but only builds.
As a combined force, Courtney and Brad avoid the pitfall of becoming a simple mosh-pit act. Instead, they inspire a more complex emotional release, most frenetic on the track “The X” and most subdued on Courtney’s standout “Lightning Song.” With Courtney’s soft, sedated vocals and Brad’s wandering guitar licks, the song closely resembles Velvet Underground’s “Pale Blue Eyes.” The quiet, dream-like song teases with anticipation of a guitar solo but instead fades into silence. At less than 1:49 minutes, “Lightning Song” is also one of the shortest on the album, and unfortunately so.
Just like that, Blood on the Wall put the soft stuff behind them and returned to basics. The remaining song titles speak for themselves: “Junkie Julie,” “Go Go Go,” “Turn Around and Shut Up.” The energy — and volume — are back at 11.