Don't Think About Death
Dog Knights Productions - 2022
Dog Knights Productions - 2022
Words by Nathan Tompkins
Chalk Hands are back and set to mark a much-anticipated return with their debut album, Don’t Think About Death. Thirty-five minutes of tender chaos, the record finds the Brighton (UK) screamo/post-rock quartet executing a grand statement of intent, one that packs enormous weight in both the material it offers as well as the themes it harbours.
Recorded in the early part of 2021 with now-esteemed producer Lewis Johns (Rolo Tomassi, Svalbard, Employed To Serve), Don’t Think About Death follows the band’s breakout Burrows & Other Hideouts EP and subsequent split-single release. Where these ventures at least pricked up the ears of listeners, with an album’s worth of runtime now in their armoury they set to render that pull even harder to ignore. Chalk Hands continue to deliver an assured take on the genre and, by throwing further elements of shoegaze, math-rock, ambient and post-metal into the pot, build upon their already striking formula. With a result that resembles close to what Suis La Lune making Sunbather might sound like, credit must also go to Johns for guiding the record into landing every devastating punch it throws.
Between now and then, Chalk Hands have been busy behind the scenes gearing up to give the record the release it deserves, and are elated to be putting it out with Dog Knights Productions in 2022, a label that the band have followed and supported as fans for the last decade, so the pairing feels as natural as it does exciting.
Whilst the subject underpinning the album may seem obvious from the title, the manner in which DTAD considers mortality is far from so. Rather, it is a measured exploration of the multiple conflicts that we accumulate just from thinking – and not thinking – about death: some may lie down in fear of it or choose to shut out the thought altogether; others will find comfort in the communal knowledge of its ubiquitous inevitability, and use that as motivation for making more with the time they have. The majority of us, however, experience both at some point or other, as well as everything in between, and the act of living with this dichotomy is what the record plays out so well.
Existing in a place where pessimism and optimism counter one another interminably, the arrangement is not one limited solely to the lyrical end of proceedings here. This same duality also extends to the music itself, whereby Chalk Hands score every twist and turn dealt with nothing short of absolute precision. Be it at the tail of “February’s New Friend”, for example, where its soaring, gargantuan guitar chords impose just as heavily as the question we’re sentenced to contemplate (“Follow the mirage / Do you fear or own your shame?”); or the mantra of the opening track (“Fail, grasp, restore / You’ve left your skin before”), which sounds out conjunctively alongside building instrumentation that, whilst mirroring the sizable wall that life’s hardships task us with scaling, always keeps us within palpable distance of some light on the other side. No matter where the needle lands, the band have every metaphorical step and stumble well accounted for.
Much of this, of course, can be attributed to a collective understanding amongst the group of the story and spirit that Don’t Think About Death sets out to convey. In laying bare their worst anxieties to one another, Chalk Hands have founded a unique brand of trust and kinship on which to project – and propel - their music. Given its relativity to all of us, there’s also plenty a reason here to argue more might benefit from seeking out similar paths to tread.
The release of their debut EP saw the band tour across the UK and Europe extensively, sharing the stage with the likes of Portrayal of Guilt, We Never Learned to Live and Underdark. With the album release just around the corner, they hope to take the new songs as far and wide as possible.
Don’t Think About Death will be released 18th March 2022 via Dog Knights Productions.