Chastity Plumbs the Passion of Emo on 'Suffer Summer'
Published Jan 12, 2022The genius of Chastity's 2018 debut Death Lust manifests in the many roads it opened for the project's mastermind Brandon Williams. Death Lust brought together everything from Deftones and Helmet, to the Smashing Pumpkins and Hum, allowing 2019's Home Made Satan to favor haunting lyricism and jangly angst while grounding itself in a comparable stylistic nexus. Suffice to say, Suffer Summer preserves key tenets of this nexus, this time recalling the palatable hooks and passionate depth of '90s and 2000s emo.
It's telling that Williams released "Pummeling" as a single, considering he had second thoughts about dropping a song so cut-and-dry. The song's simple, infectious riffs and ear-worm melodies immediately set a distinct tone from Chastity's darker, moodier past. Indeed, comparisons to classic emo run deeper than Williams collaborating with Alexisonfire's Dallas Green on "Vicious Circle." Complete with swelling string accompaniment, this surprisingly lush ballad solidifies Suffer Summer as an unapologetically pleasant iteration of Chastity's sound.
So pleasant, in fact, that processing the despondent pep talk within "Real World" might require reading the lyrics without listening to Williams' singing: "I think I'd rather suffer / I always feel worse / before I feel better." Suffer Summer's road-weary grappling with happiness (or a longing thereof), gives the lovesick "When You Go Home I Withdrawal" a uniquely endearing melancholy: "Kept the door unlocked / So you could get right back in." Co-written by PUP frontman and friend of the band Stefan Babcock, both these tracks deliver exhilarating syncopation and anthemic sheen with respective splendour.
Deeper cuts help clarify why Deathwish Inc., of all labels, released Suffer Summer internationally. Regardless of the extreme music Deathwish usually caters to, it's no easy feat to dismiss Chastity's tenacious choruses and dynamic nuances because "it's not angry enough." Whether it's the chest-pumping grit of the riff-tastic "Overstimulate," or the buoyant gloss and climatic peaks of "The Barbed Wire Fence Around Happiness," Williams extracts convincing intensity and memorable motifs from every end of Suffer Summer's sonic spectrum.
As a more streamlined affair, Suffer Summer greatly benefits from a bolstered production value. "Dying To Live" can hit harder with its mid-tempo bounce, but also elevate Williams' straightforward vocal leads with sweeping shifts to oscillated drum tones and glistening guitar ambiance — two aspects it shares with "Somersault." Based on a voice memo Dallas Green sent to Williams (aptly titled "Pumpkins"), "Somersault" nods to the orchestral beauty of Smashing Pumpkins' "Tonight, Tonight" atop hypnotic, vigorous riffage. Blissful nihilism secures the song's place as an album highlight, hitting at the centre of pandemic dread: "Stay in bed 'cause it's safe / I don't leave, it's doomsday."
Suffer Summer's emotional quotient hits critical mass with the deceptively energized "Happy Face," dedicated to Williams' friend — a victim of fentanyl overdose. His memoir paints a heart-wrenching portrait of loss and addiction with his most passionate singing to date: "Dopamine is hidden in a lot of deathly places / You're the part of me that's missing." Williams encapsulates this balance of vulnerability and arresting melodies with final cut "Smiling." Its pristine, strummed acoustic guitar and placid groove brings Suffer Summer full circle, in pursuit of elusive hope in the midst of hardship.
From start to finish, there's enough gnarly distortion and explosive percussion to connect this album's most poppy arrangements to Chastity's raw inception. In this lies the overarching significance of Suffer Summer as Williams' third artistic metamorphosis. Williams offers a more accessible facet of his vision, but retains the fervent personality that first made Chastity one of Ontario rock's finest up-and-comers. (Dine Alone)