All at Once Review
(provided by Joe Yanick)
Sometimes maturing means having less to prove. In the case of Screaming Females latest full-length, All At Once, this seems to be absolutely the idea. Screaming Females have never been a band to cater to mainstream sensibilities, but with All At Once, much of what could make the band’s previous work impenetrable has been washed away in favor of something more inviting.
What All At Once does do, however, is continue in the band’s tradition of subverting expectation. It’s not even well into the record’s third song, “I’ll Make You Sorry,” that guitarist/vocalist Marissa Paternoster launches into her trademark shredding. She attributes this development in their sound to age in a recent interview with Stereogum, stating:
[W]hen we were younger, I know I would overplay all the time. I was thinking about catering to the song, but I also think I wanted to prove something to myself and be like, ‘You are a capable and apt musician!’ and then overplay. And by that I mean maybe insist on a completely superfluous guitar solo or add 15 notes that don’t need to be in a riff. It was definitely to prove something to myself and be like, “Look at me!” which is not something I’m super interested in anymore.
But it’s not short of fanciful guitarwork, more the opposite. With All At Once, The Screaming Females strike a balance between technique and harmony. You’re never left wondering about their ability as musicians, because they are on display, but in a matter that isn’t concerned about whether or not you know it. It’s an album of upmost confidence.
Evolved as it is, All At Once remains a Screaming Females record, and with that, of course, comes with it an onslaught of driving melodies, discordant-battling-melodic guitar licks, and Paternoster’s haunting and powerful voice uniting it all in the front. Almost more important to this fine-tuned sensibility is the pummeling rhythm section from drummer Jarrett Dougherty and bassist King Mike (Mike Abbatte), whose chemistry with each other provides for an incredible power on which Paternoster is able to flourish both vocally and musically.
“Glass House” opens the record up in slow burn fashion, highlighting Marissa’s haunting vocals interspersed with pounding rhythm. This song, perhaps more than any other on the album, demonstrates the maturity of the band. While it potentially leaves room for missed expectations for fans expecting something like Ripe from the band’s previous album, Rose Mountain, it works perfectly into the sequencing, as the upbeat bass+drum combo of “Black Moon” picks up only moments later. From here, the first half of the record plays out in strong fashion. Both “Black Moon” and “I’ll Make You Sorry” provide Screaming Females’ more poppy tendencies, with “Dirt,” “Deeply,” and “Soft Domination,” all offering a more staccato-driven approach not unfamiliar to their past output. “Agnes Martin” combines the leanings of all of the aforementioned and drenches it with a slew of stoner, mathy riffs to spin what is one of the album’s strongest songs.
It’s not until “End of My Bloodline,” the record’s eight track, that All At Once begins to take a turn into more experimental territory. Most of the record’s most ambitious songwriting occurs over the next eight tracks. It is also, here, where Screaming Females unveil the longest track of the record, “Chamber For Sleep I.” This is a wild track. It’s a real exploration through their sound, which fittingly concludes with a two-minute-instrumental laced with reverbed noodling.
Taking a moment to look at their entire discography, there is a discernible development in the Screaming Females towards a more focused and concise sound. Each album offers something new while never seeing the band push too far from their original aesthetic. Recognizing All At Once also as a glimpse of what’s to come, sees the band furthering their ability to blend difficult, boundary pushing material quite seamlessly into mainstream sensibilities. From the slow and punching to the fast and anthemic, All At Once is a dynamic punch that is likely to push Screaming Females into new boundaries.