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Four Columns Josh Gray , July 8th, 2015 11:32

Are you a Suicide fan turned cult leader looking to replace the worn out Bauhaus 45 gathering dust on your sect's dusty turntable? If the answer to this question is 'yes' then Sacremento goth revivalists Screature's Four Columns is the nasty nihilistic post-punk record you've been looking for. While recent years have seen everyone from Zola Jesus to Lorde try to expand the parameters of what qualifies as 'goth', Screature have opted to self-consciously operate within the pre-existing framework of the most maudlin of genres. The result is a short, sharp barrage of black denim filth, powered by the satanic marriage of Christopher Orr's garage riffs to the operatic banshee howls of singer Liz Mahoney. If you were to resurrect the corpse of Nico and set it loose on South Berlin with nothing but a buzzsaw and a thirst for blood then you too could incite the cacophony of despair that Four Columns does.

From opener 'Plastic Point Of View' (which sounds unnervingly like Hot Hot Heat's 'Bandages' performed in Dante's 'Inferno') to ghoulish closer 'Graves And Heirs', Screature never slow down or let up in their commitment to bleak beefiness, so don't be alarmed if by the end of the album's mere half an hour runtime you feel like you'll never see summer again. Mahoney's often obscured lyrics revel equally in nihilism and neurosis: kicking out against the rest of the world while still retaining a sharp streak of self-loathing. Meanwhile her simultaneously expansive and confined vocal stylings make it sound like she's trapped performing in the belly of a leviathan to an audience of apathetic krill. It is of utmost importance that Mahoney and Savages' frontwoman Jenny Beth never meet as the universe as we know it might cease to exist.

Screature's ambition to create a 'classic' goth post-punk record by rejecting the existence of pretty much everything that emerged after Siouxie And The Banshees' JuJu is admirable, but it does mar the album on occasion. While keyboardist Sarah Scherer manages to successfully answer that age old question "what would happen if Tim Burton took over from Booker T. in the M.G.s?", drummer Miranda Vera's back to basics approach leaves the rhythm section sounding empty and uninspired. The monotonic repetition of her static, flat drumbeats is obviously the result of a partial attempt at 70s studio realism by the band, but it stands starkly at odds with the innovative guitar assault it underpins. Christopher Orr is definitely Screature's MVP, his fretwork cutting like a scalpel on 'Faceless', chomping like a dieting bull shark on 'One Hundred Lines' and providing a peerless helicopter-propeller scratch attack on the kinetic outro to 'Lost Ones'.

Ultimately Screature are yet to solidify their identity as a band. Are they gothic post-punk's renovators, brought in to give the house a new lick of black paint and a once over with a broomstick? Or are they innovators, taking genetic material from the late 70s gloom-boom and splicing it with something completely new? Strains of Strange House (The Horror's initial attempt at bringing back Goth before giving up and becoming minor deities of neo-psychedelia) abound on Four Columns, along with all the inferred indecisiveness that marooned that particular album to the bottom of CD collections nationwide. But, unlike their British skinny-jeaned siblings, Screature are obviously making the music they want to make. At times this can make that music sound like a black bibliography of musical touchstones, each of which has inspired fresher musical trends than their own cavernous incarnation of krautrock. But overall Four Columns is elevated from the status of mere revivalism by the two columns of Christopher Orr, a guitar anti-hero comparable to Thurston Moore, and the irrepressible Liz Mahoney, whose ghoulish wails compliment his six-stringed screams spine-chillingly.

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