For an album that deals heavily with death, Young Widows lined up its most intense sonic assault yet.
The Louisville trio, formed in 2006, plays with a powerful, tenacious style, combining elements of post-punk noise rock hardcore with a creeping sense of doom, but until this year's Easy Pain LP, the band had never truly pushed its limits.
"We've never really tried to be this intense before," says singer-guitarist Evan Patterson. "For our last album, there was a very exact idea and the dynamics set out for the recording, but we kind of had a hard time writing it, maybe a less enjoyable time writing it. With this one, the idea was to not stress about it so much and just push ourselves to be louder than we've ever been before and harsher than we've ever been before."
Easy Pain—led by the aggressive first single "Kerosene Girl" and "Cool Night," which contains the lyric that became the title—finds fitting subject matter in death, and the fearless, liberating acceptance of mortality. Still, Patterson says he doesn't begin to approach the lyrics until after the music is recorded and even then, avoids beginning with any specific idea of what he will say, letting the music itself coax the ideas into the open.
"After we were done recording the music, I sat with the songs for a couple weeks and hashed out the melodies and found the words," he says. "It came together really easily and quickly. A lot of it touches on the same subjects."
Songs like "Godman" and "Cool Night" come from specific experiences and intense emotions, which helped guide Patterson's sense of the record.
"It deals with death pretty heavily and accepting death," he says. "That's the whole concept of the album for me, understating that we're all going to die and once you accept that into your life you can truly live and not be scared."
Musically, Easy Pain makes the most of the dynamics between Patterson, bassist Nick Thieneman and drummer Jeremy McMonigle, each forging instrumental paths that bypass easy conventions for a more expressive sound.
"For most of our songs, there aren't a lot of parts where we're playing normal power chords and a normal bass line running with it. We spent a lot of time crafting out different patterns for all of us to play to make a sonic assault," Patterson says. "When we're writing, we get to a part and just try to find that perfect thing sonically that pushes it over the edge, but also holds the melody and sounds like a song and just not noise. That's always been something I've appreciated with music in general."
Seeking out those alternating rhythms and the tones playing off each other is something Patterson has been doing since he began playing music. Growing up on his father's classic rock—Hendrix, Zeppelin and the Beatles—Patterson got heavily into punk before the 1990s post-grunge wave of alternative rock hit.
"Then I got into all this noise rock," he says. "There was this whole sound of music going in the '90s that was a pretty heavy wave. When I first heard those songs, I was just shocked by the aggressiveness of it. I aspired to seek out how to create that and years later it just becomes easier to find that tension in music."
Young Widows began after Patterson and Thieneman's previous band, the mathcore Breather Resist, broke up. Young Widows released Settle Down City on Jade Tree in 2006 and after a move to the more experimental Temporary Residence Limited label, the band released follow-up Old Wounds in 2008. A slightly more refined record, In and Out of Youth and Lightness, followed in 2011.
Resisting any genre traps, the band bore down with a fiery rebelliousness on Easy Pain, cranking the volume while concentrating more on the individual songs. The result, eight brutal tracks that don't let up for 41 minutes, is a perfect reminder for Patterson of what first captivated him about playing music.
"It's the whole exiting your body thing," he says. "I've always had that feeling. The first couple times I played shows as a kid, I started playing and it feels like a minute has gone by and then it's over.
"That's the same thing I seek now, that rush of losing yourself and using it as outlet, not just for art, but a mental outlet to take you out of your daily rituals and the thoughts you struggle with, to just forget about everything."