Review: Cruelty of the Heavens, Somewhere Between Paranoia & Depression (Self-Released, 2017)

I've pretty much been waiting for this day since November 15, 2016—the date upon which Cruelty of the Heavens' debut full-length, Grow Up and See, was released. Said album has been in my stereo for most of 2017. I listen to it several times a week, and it has in fact become one of my all-time favorite albums. Originally slated for release on December 1st before being delayed until tomorrow, my overzealous superfandom lucked me into an opportunity to grab an early listen to this brand new three-song EP, Somewhere Between Paranoia & Depression, last week.

Unsurprisingly, I fuckin' love it!

Opener "Anna Graham"—which will also be the subject of an all-new lyric video—will be the surefire winner for most listeners, as it has the most in common with Grow Up and See and Cruelty of the Heavens' core sound: a plodding, bass-centric, emo-tinged shoegaze whirl complete with wonderfully heavy-yet-dreary chorus hooks. I'll never tire of those subtle vocal nuances that brilliantly transition from singing into hints of aggression, either. So good. The piece even tosses in a bit of a twist by introducing a light twang to some of the surrounding lead melodies, which hints at what's to follow...

Changing pace quite a bit, "Not Going Anywhere" is a wistful acoustic "ballad" reminiscent of album cut "A Vessel Beneath a Stone" through its introduction of piano and orchestration. It turns out to be a duet with Memphis singer/songwriter Grace Askew, whose gorgeously raspy performance really takes the piece to another level.

And that impressive diversity only expands when the EP closes out by heading further in that direction with the lushly country-tinged "Hymn & Her," which I debuted a few months ago when it was initially set for release by guitarist/vocalist Neal Bledsoe's solo project, Goldie. Another acoustic piece centered around intricately layered guitars and vocals, the structure is a bit more atypical, however—its unusual vocal arrangements and misleadingly linear flow sort of masking the chorus a bit. (If those sound like "complaints," they're not: simply observations!)

In the end, Somewhere Between Paranoia & Depression offers just under 10 minutes of material that unexpectedly finds the group branching out into even wider avenues of opportunity. I continue to see zero reason that there shouldn't be a steadily-chuggin' hype train behind this band, and if there is any shred of justice in our sorely misguided existence—if honest, quality music can ever simply speak for itself—Cruelty of the Heavens will one day be granted the success they so rightly deserve.

Until then, this is the fourth time in 14 months that I've written about Cruelty of the Heavens, and I'm not gonna stop, so... if for some bizarre reason you're reading this still having yet to give 'em a spin: do it, and do it now.

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