Cursive – ‘Vitriola’

By Kelly Ronaldson

Cursive have never been a band to hold back, and their eighth studio album certainly doesn’t either. Through the lens of nihilism and desolation, ‘Vitriola’ sees the Omaha natives express their thoughts on modern society, comparing the artistic cycle of creation and destruction to that of society’s seemingly impending collapse. While the band’s members have been busy with various solo projects (including the launch of their own record label, 15 Passenger), ‘Vitriola’ marks the band’s first full-length release in over four years, reuniting the band with founding drummer Clint Schnase in order to create one of the best albums that Cursive have ever produced.

Testing the waters in a genre-bending experimental effort, ‘Free To Be Or Not To Be Me And You’ marks the record’s opening track, reflecting themes of existentialism and a search for understanding through the use of spine-tingling synths, bone-shattering drum beats, and haunting cello undertones courtesy of Megan Siebe. ‘Pick Up The Pieces’ pays homage to the band’s previous releases, taking the form of an aggressive indie-rock track that deals with the aftermath and repetitive cycles of conflict, before ‘It’s Gonna Hurt’ tears apart any previous post-hardcore influences and branches out into heavier post-punk and industrial tones. Beautifully, the track’s musical intensity mirrors the Cure’s Disintegration, and Kasher’s desperate, guttural vocals throughout the song’s chorus blend traits of Jordan Dreyer and Trent Reznor. The anxiety-fuelled ‘Under the Rainbow’ follows in a pounding explosion, as the band unapologetically point their fingers at the self-satisfaction of the privileged classes, providing an anthem of solidarity for those “left all alone”.

A melancholic piano forms the basis of ‘Remorse’ as distorted guitars and group vocals echo feelings of sorrow and guilt, before the halfway point fades in towards the droning and hostile ‘Ouroboros’. Despite the negative tones of the album overall, ‘Vitriola’ depicts a beautiful interpretation of the world around us; the dream-like melodies in ‘Everending’ compliment the vivid imagery of the track, before ‘Ghost Writer’ marks the soundtrack to every creative’s work life as Kasher criticizes his own artistic process and compares the ‘create and destroy’ process of writing to that of society. Lead single ‘Life Savings’ comes next, presenting Cursive at their best in a post-hardcore effort that addresses the destructive nature of money. Featuring immaculate guest vocals from Campdogzz’s Jess Price, the track’s blend of gut-wrenching guitar work and hard-hitting lyrical themes culminate in one of the most emotional tracks ‘Vitriola’ has to offer.

In keeping with the record’s pessimistic perspective, closing track ‘Noble Soldier / Dystopian Lament’ provides listeners with a chilling commentary on the potential collapse of society, combining the use of cello and distorted synths in a haunting, yet powerful confrontation as Kasher drones “the life you knew is over.” Impressively, ‘Vitriola’ expresses Cursive’s frustrations and resentment towards society, alongside their own internal struggles and the instability of their home country, yet does so in a way that is both brutally honest and universally applicable.

KELLY RONALDSON

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