Over its three previous full-lengths—a pair for top-notch hardcore-punk label Deranged Records and 2014’s how-do-you-do Domino upgrade Deep Fantasy—Vancouver’s White Lung has stayed true to one of the most elemental traits of punk: Keep the rhythms relentless, like a boxer working a speed bag. While steady-and-true drummer Anne-Marie Vassiliou certainly stays in her lane on the new Paradise (not a dig, mind you), the raspy vocal flourishes from frontwoman Mish Way and the ever-evolving frenetic guitar work of Kenneth William continue to enable White Lung to stretch the seams of punk—without bringing into question the simple integrity of what they’re out to accomplish.
At its core, Paradise is another addition to a pretty flawless, decade-old White Lung canon. The near blast-beat that girds William’s cycling hammer-on lick on opener “Dead Weight,” one of many brief and cryptic punk-title titles, is as fierce and heavy a moment as anything the band has written, and tracks like the sinister “Kiss Me When I Bleed” and “Vegas”—aside from the latter’s ambient slow burn of an outro—feel, for the most part, like par-for-the-course White Lung scorchers. What sets Paradise apart, though, is an even finer polish than its predecessor Deep Fantasy, the first album to benefit from a Domino-bequeathed luster.
So much of that subtle maturation is due to William’s expansive and inventive playing, as he is somehow able to line up guitar chords that whirl around like a whooshing tetherball near the end of its rope. One of the record’s best tracks, “Narcoleptic” is so schizophrenic as William skips around the neck that it’s a wonder he can lasso the whole thing into a coherent brooding melody. Though Paradise does have a decidedly compressed, chunkier tone—a riff on “Demented” practically sounds like metalcore—the manner in which tracks bloom during their choruses (not very punk, it’s true) mostly drowns that out, thanks in great part to Way’s sonorous vocals.
During the chorus of Paradise’s first single, the chiller “Hungry,” Way moves alongside an almost orchestral guitar effect, blending her vocals in with its swell without losing an iota of command. On “Below,” the album’s most blatant arena-ready track, while her smoky snarl is smoothed out a bit too much with processed studio magic, once the crystalline verse kicks in, her attitude cuts through as she sings with a suspicious side glance. When the track crescendoes through till the end, she shows off a bravado that’s about as powerful as any middle finger in your face.