Fiddlehead – ‘Death Is Nothing To Us’

By Katherine Allvey

If Fiddlehead had a motto, it would be ‘good things come in small packages’. The supergroup’s tours are short and sporadic, popping up like soap bubbles and disappearing quickly. Their albums, though appearing in rapid succession, contain songs like quick haikus lasting less than two and a half minutes. Patrick Flynn’s vocals fire out messages like high-powered buckshot. Thematically, however, the Boston quintet’s latest album is anything but bitesize, aiming to address the nature of philosophy around death and the lingering nausea of protracted grieving. “I saw the title in this poem, ‘On The Nature of Things,’” Flynn reveals. “It was rediscovered around The Renaissance, and it helped remind people more of the greatness of life and less about the sadness of death. It’s about not allowing death to rule over life.”

If you think ‘Death Is Nothing To Us’ will be a sombre, po-faced musing on infinity, you’re wrong. There is, however, a tension between taut desperation and desire for recognition throughout the album. Flynn laments the need for ‘prozac and xanax’ on ‘Sleepyhead’, shouting like a lost soul who is dying for someone to just ask if they’re doing OK. Fiddlehead are more than capable of plumbing the depths of human misery (see the frankly harrowing ‘Poem You’ from 2018), but this album feels like the moment after you’re released from the darkness and finally see the bright sunlight of simple joys. However, this is not a song that drags you into the Black Dog’s clutches. It’s a song for when things get just that tiny bit better and you’re ready to express what’s happening. It’s also got one hell of a guitar riff to sugar coat the bitter message and making it more palatable.

While this is an intensely personal album, it expands out to envelope us all in its waves of grunge bass. ‘Death Means Nothing To Us’ is the final instalment in an unintentional trilogy that emerged from Flynn’s father’s death, and the emotional exorcism this album offers promises us all a release from our own pain. “To the strange, stuck-in-bed, death-obsessed, Fiddleheads,” Flynn roars with all his might in ‘The Woes’, “I can see you and me suffering silently / we’re visible and we’re seen when life is everything.” It’s an empathetic message, and now Fiddlehead’s grief is ebbing away, they can guide us through ours. “I was always drawn to punk music because it seemed like it wasn’t this sage on the stage–it’s a weird community that exists without anyone really telling it what to do,” says Flynn, and this acknowledgement that healing can occur both internally and externally, together or in isolation, drives this album.

However, this is not an album that will pass suffering on to you. All the things we enjoy about post-hardcore are in there, from thrash buildups and bellowing choruses to smacking drumbeats and bleak riffs. ‘Fifteen to Infinity’ lingers in the mind long after its clipped ending, while smouldering ‘Sullenboy’ praises facing fear and pushing forward anyway. There are bleak moments of contemplation, such as ‘Give It Time (II)’ which seems like pausing to watch the clouds on the beach while hoping for a release from a bad habit. However, these moments of staring into the void of despair are few and far between. Their nineties alt fervour allows the seeds of hidden positivity to burst open through the cracks in your tired mind and blossom like sweet magnolia. Death does not mean nothing to Fiddlehead. The conflict surrounding life’s end fuels this tightly wound, memorable album.

KATE ALLVEY

Three more album reviews for you

Graphic Nature - ‘Who Are You When No One Is Watching?’

Northbound - 'Juniper'

LIVE: Download Festival 2024 - Sunday