The Sweet Release Of Death has been brooding – both underground and at times above ground – for at least five years now. The Rotterdam noise group managed to kick up some dust and gather quite a following with the release of two albums in 2015 and 2016. Live shows were sometimes scarce, but met with merely raving reports. They came out of self-chosen isolation to drop their third record The Blissful Joy Of Living in October on Subroutine Records. To say expectations were high, would be quite the understatement.
Text: Ingmar Griffioen / Photography: Anne-Marie van Rijn
The record is a stunning affair, their trademark noise spiced with dreamy shoegaze, fuzz and post-punk rhythms, leaving more room to breathe and for Martijn Tevel’s guitar to resonate. The press seemed to be competing with superlatives to praise The Blissful Joy Of Living. Still, quite a few eyebrows were raised when they were booked for Le Guess Who? Why you ask? Well, at first the festival confirmed only two Dutch bands, one of them being legendary punks The Ex (in the end seven Dutch acts are playing Le Guess Who? and many more at showcase festival Le Mini Who? on Sunday). Suddenly it dawned on many that something must be up with this Rotterdam threesome.
Gloomy Spijkenisse noise
And it definitely is. We became even more intrigued after we spoke (in Dutch) to singer and bassist Alicia Breton Ferrer about noise, about their inspirations, the gloomy, depressive influence of growing up in Spijkenisse (not far from the industrial side of Rotterdam) and the sometimes relation-like drag being in a band can be. Needless to say, we made sure to arrive in due time at the lovely, intimate EKKO venue (housing just 300 festival goers). As expected, EKKO totally fills up for them.
The sound steadily building up in the intro, Tevel and Breton Ferrer share a cautious smile before taking off. Perhaps acknowledging that they pulled this off, against some odds, that they are really presenting their album at the prestigious Le Guess Who? festival. The lighting is spot on: nihilistic blackness with a few white beams penetrating the darkness like searching lights. It almost feels like out of character that Breton Ferrer addresses the crowd in her native Dutch tongue, but she undoubtedly recognises many familiar friendly faces. And let’s be honest: This might be a very international festival, it still feels like a golden opportunity to catch the Rotterdam crew on tour in a decent, nearby venue.
Contrast and balance
In spite of the excellently balanced album we were still expecting to be engulfed by waves of noise. Nostalgia… In stead they treat us to a dynamic sound, the quieter moments only emphasizing their instrumental strength. The acceleration, the seriously dark vocal delivery, the sheer threat; and then following the squealing guitar into a shrieking noisy eruption. Gotta love it. Album opener, and first single, Sway on the other hand chooses a more careful, controlled path. The rhythmic drive laid down by drummer Sven Engelsman and Breton Ferrer is leading, superbly stowing EKKO into their world. Their anger and feelings of dissatisfaction and boredom are nestling under your skin, shaping up to dangerous proportions and becoming more tangible by the minute. Songs are met with applause and cheers. Alicia responds with an almost apologetic smile, as if she’s still having to pinch herself to check if this is actually happening. Perhaps it shouldn’t, but this show probably feels different, bigger than supporting IDLES in EKKO.
Martijn finds time to tie his shoe laces while tuning his guitar. As we say in the Netherlands: respect the skills. It’s not just noise rock, The Sweet Release Of Death also possess this early Pumpkins like shoegazey feel, that is just too delicious. Sheer bliss. In terms of focus this is probably not their best live show ever, but it still comes down to awfully impressive stuff from the Rotterdam group. The second part shows a band very much in control of their simmering and at times menacing sound.
The group has been booked for Rockaway Beach festival in the UK and is setting off for a tour that takes them through the Balkans and central Europe, before setting foot at Submarine Festival (November 30 in The Hague) and in more Dutch venues in December. Rumour has it (always beware of bar talk people!) that The Sweet Release Of Death are going to be playing some more prestigious festivals in the foreseeable future. They certainly deserve to do so.