Capacities - The Unexamined Life
Record Label: How Soon is Now/Protagonist Music
Release Date: March 19, 2012
It’s been a long time since I’ve been terrified by music. I think of listening to Sticks and Stones when I was still in high school and being scared to death by... well, you know. I literally had to make sure no one was in my house. Anyways, Capacities’ LP The Unexamined Life has managed to tap into a bit of that psyche through a collection of mostly short, mostly sweet musical blitzes that mix downer melodies with a chaotic sense of realization that you might not truly be in control of what is going on around you. And while it isn’t a completely realized sound, Capacities own it well enough to keep you coming back for more.
The Unexamined Life plays out in thirty to ninety second bursts of percussive, emotional aggression akin to The Saddest Landscape, though Capacities never really show quite the same inclination to pen with vamps and proper structuring. In twelve tracks, the band’s often abrasive textures and cathartic wails pack a legit punch to the gut, whether it is the admittedly jarring juxtaposition of shrill against brooding in “An Unsuccessful Attack” or the manic bob-and-weave nature of “I Am Better on Pills”, the latter taking a rather groove-laden, yet gripping path through accentuated instrumentals and an oddly, yet impressively terrifying vocal line. The track perfectly captures suspense and fear in a mere thirty-eight seconds without sacrificing some dark, yet catchy as fuck melodies in the process – a feat that in as much of a surprise doesn’t leave much on the table to gripe about.
Ironically enough though, it’s almost as if the track “A Cycle of Hollow Joy and Vicious Self Hatred” sums up the album in a musical and emotional nature. Not that there are any particularly happy moments on this record, but the back and forth repetition of sullen to psychotic seems to fit into the overall balance of vibes here. The cyclical nature also assumes in the band’s ability to execute in terms of songwriting, where at times the band does something breathtaking in under a minute (“Pills”), other times they seem unable to truly flesh out their ideas to the full extent when they cross the minute marker, as “I’m Glad You Like a Book” shows the band at a rather disjointed moment in their admittedly never-straightforward path. Yet, the two-minute plus titular ender seems to contradict that – strangely enough – as the longer phrases and much more deliberate shifts make for a stirring, yet emotionally-hinged end to the disc. The stripped down ending brings simpler guitar lines and almost chanted vocals (‘No judging gods. No preset plans to follow. Just the free will to live or die is all I have.’) make for an epiphany that will arguably make you want to go back for a bit more of this record – only reassuring the continued notion of the cycle.
Yet even as jarring and challenging this disc seems to be at times, it’s been remarkably tough to put down even as the play count grows higher. For a sound that is both melodically satisfying and tactfully gritty, Capacities seem to have all their ducks in a row in terms of displaying their passion and artistic drive in this collection of tracks. But for any low this record might show in the songwriting department, the mind-stamping highs of this album are practically haunting in nature – making this a tough shake for the mind of even the most casual screamo enthusiast.