A Place To Bury Strangers has gotten a lot of mileage out of its reputation as one of the most soaringly loud bands in the American rock underground. That said, the New York trio has been known to overindulge in its chaotic noise rock whims. It’s easy to be awed by the band’s power, but its earliest work occasionally crumbled underneath its own sonic weight.
The group has apparently been mindful of correcting this issue as of late. APTBS tightened up the rancorous mischief some on 2012’s Worship, and the band moves further in that direction on its fourth studio effort, Transfixiation. The record’s 11 tracks are noticeably shorter than those on Worship, and many of them are also easier to digest. Volume remains the strongest weapon in the APTBS arsenal, but leadoff tracks “Supermaster” and “Straight” are shaped to a tighter pop construct that makes the band’s experimental noise easier to absorb. The band even throws some major chords into the squalor on the piercing but surprisingly pleasant-sounding “What We Don’t See.”
Still, you’d be foolish to underestimate the band’s ability to seriously lower the boom. “If you fuck with me you’re gonna burn,” frontman Oliver Ackermann warns in his cryptic monotone on the punishing six-minute epic “Deeper.” It’s a track as textured and marred by aural carnage as anything in the band’s repertoire, proving the group can still peel the paint off your walls even as it pares down elsewhere.
The steps away from the musical edge on Transfixiation are cautious at best, but it’s unrealistic to expect the band stray too far from its shoegazing wailing. “I feel right now we’ve come so far,” Ackermann boasts on “We’ve Come So Far.” While that might be a bit of an overstatement, the band’s small but noticeable stabs at restraint make Transfixiation another step forward in A Place To Bury Strangers’ evolution from brutal experimentalists to more pop-conscious noise rockers.