With a rash of image shares all over social media, the question on everyone’s lips was ‘What the heck is this LIAR thing?’. It turns out that the secretive campaign is in honour of a fresh release from heavies She Cries Wolf. With lips sealed in support of the Gold Coast based quartet’s stealth approach to dropping their bomb of a release on 22nd February, I maneuvered my way through Liar.
The last we heard from the She Cries Wolf camp was the stomping single “Cultist” which virtually tore listeners a new one in its intense ‘you’re dead to me’ level of anger. As a relative newcomer to She Cries Wolf, it was Liar‘s first lyric that pulled me deeper into their discography.
“Through the divorce and the doubt, one realisation remains
Either one of us was a liar, or maybe we were both lying to each other and ourselves”
Divorce (2015) and Doubt (2016) are the titles of the band’s albums to date; capturing the experience of distancing and separation, and dark observations of life. If we’re to take the looped opening lyric of album opener “Perjury” at face value, She Cries Wolf are coming back to old wounds with wisdom, perspective, and a desire for responsibility. Heavy hearted, the album opener takes us through the static and head-filling oppressiveness of realisation, and sets it all on fire. Blasting out, the slamming heaviness seems to signify a time of action and a refusal to comply.
Flowing into “Magdalene”, it vibes like a rifftastic and hectic-paced observation of one who is darkly troubled. The Amity Affliction‘s Ahren Stringer features on this track, adding a heightened cleanness to something otherwise dark. I found this to be a tough track to sit with, which feels like it’s focused head-on at someone’s gradual demise. “Magdalene”‘s relentless pace and pressure feels like a life that can’t be kept up with, that has one gradually closer to the edge. The fraught busyness of the track’s end feels like the peak of tension, resulting in the siren-wailing bad news one never wanted to receive.
Feeling like a third act of the same play, rather than a separate third song, “Love Trader” is a chaotic aftermath, where screaming in horror seems fitting. A blistering state of intensity and sound pares back slightly, leaving room for a heart-wrenching dance between anxiety and depression to be (painfully) empathised with. The building weight and sense of ongoing containment between feeling nothing or too much is skillfully crafted by She Cries Wolf, and I cried while listening as this hit powerfully home with blast beats and anguished vocals:
“I can’t wait until the depression comes back,
at least then I won’t feel anything
I can’t wait until the anxiety comes back,
at least then I’ll get to feel something again”
Huge and hard-hitting, as “Love Trader” continues, it feels like someone taking a stand despite the consequences; it struck me in its bravery and vulnerability, being clear in owning that the protagonist is flawed, has a lot to learn, and has bitter pills to swallow. In all honesty, I had to pause this song several times because I was bawling my fucking eyes out too hard to actually write anything. If She Cries Wolf intended to craft something akin to being hit by an emotional freight train, they’ve succeeded. The ache continues to be felt with a lean into instrumental defeat and I adore what’s been created here. Understatement. Holy fuck. You BET I wish I could talk about this!
Dissonantly in more ways than one, “Love Trader” ends with a skewed sense of reality, heralded by strings taking a momentary spotlight in the darkness.
“October ’16” feels separate to the other tracks of Liar so far, and has its sonic teeth sunk deeply into the concept of lying. Confessionally screamed and whispered, we’re drawn into an internal jungle of confusion that’s sometimes explosive or chemically sedated. With an incredibly catchy chorus and beefy bass, the fogginess of uncertainty seems to stretch and push through into an undeniable lens of understanding and means of discerning what’s real and true: Pay attention to what people do, not what they say.
It wouldn’t surprise me if this song was the result of a moment of breakdown and also breakthrough. I thoroughly appreciated the ending of the song, both in sound and feel.
Measured and even, the following track “Victim Complex” sharpens a blade and uses it savagely. Pummeling in strength and with an unpredictable pace, it’s punch after punch toward a self-righteous and deluded escapist. The track is a pointed finger toward one who has caused harm, morphing into claws that seem to intend to shred the layers of ignorance and force them to recognise the damage they’re responsible for. The track makes its vicious point known with riffs that saw relentlessly back and forth at times and delve deeper downward at others.
The piano, violin, and tolling of a bell at the introduction of “After Death” (coupled with its title, obviously) foreshadows more dark thematic explorations by She Cries Wolf. With this song, we may be silently mourning in a grey church. Manipulated speech drones on, but doesn’t find any kind of clarity. It’s only at the angular and explosive first verse that we’re sitting uncomfortably with purposelessness, before drifting more thoughtfully into considering what should have been done.
There’s some seriously jaw-dropping guitar work on “After Death”, and this captures my attention from the hammer drop of “Reality eventually sings her funeral song”. The moreish guitar comes coupled with a breakneck pace and the sense of horror; a feeling of being forced to face something that you really don’t want to see, and it looming regardless with dread. In this case it seems like facing oneself and questioning whether anything akin to freedom exists when failure and loss hangs so heavy.
More angular then, it feels like a culmination of thoughts and realisations pulling together, of one’s role in life and all that they’ve endured. Stitched together and pasted with static vocal musing about life and where they fit, we’re hit with the final punch of the ending. It’s moments like this end of the song that have me see She Cries Wolf as intending to create sonic art with this album, more than ‘bangers’ or something to mosh to.
“I’m sleepless nights, thoughts taunting you as you beg for a second’s rest
I’m her smile when she delivered the final blow”
Halfway through Liar, life had taken me away for several days and I returned to slide back into this unfolding story of frustration and tension heavy attempts to reveal the truth. Though the songs themselves hadn’t jangled around in my head, there’d been a definite shadowy imprint left by the determination to be heard.
Jarring with it’s angles and dissonance at first, I found myself embracing “Genesis Flood” like a long-lost friend. Though the line “I’ve been scared to pretend that I’m not giving up” felt a little clunky, the choruses of this track are absolutely brilliant in their almost dual-personality vibe of soaring hope as well as defeat. I can’t say I have intimate knowledge with the religious context of the title, so I assume She Cries Wolf are using it as a metaphor of everything you know being wiped out and beginning again.
Sliding directly into “Pine”, Liar continues to serve as a fluid listen, keeping us neck deep in the intensity of their story. The witnessing of loss is brandished wildly and bluntly, where erratic rhythms build onto this scene of a death. Blasting beats point at horrific realisations and uncomfortable observations. Teetering states of suspension freeze us in time as we watch the reactions of others to the loss of a companion.
What hits most powerfully in “Pine” for me is a floating moment of breathtaking gentleness around 1:54, followed by slamming drums, intertwined vocals, and a homecoming thump to the heart courtesy of searing guitar. This section of the song sparked emotion from within me before I had even seen the lyrics, and I don’t think I’ll be alone. After the discomfort through the track to this point, this harmonious last statement is something truly beautiful. I’m virtually putty in She Cries Wolf’s hands by virtue of how skillfully they share grief, the grasping on to final moments, and a desire to live out a promise.
Seething and bubbling with distaste “Maternally Malignant” is a savage and thrashing dump of hate toward (assuming based on the title and lyrics) a mother. The relentless track feels like a stark reminder of the contained and warped perspective of life that can come from how we’re raised (“I didn’t know a thing outside of you”) and how damaging this can be.
A poisonous upbringing scars a fledgling human for life. “Maternally Malignant” speaks with the fury that one would hold after running for freedom and turning back to truly see what hell they’ve endured. There’s nothing held back here by way of anger, where the theme of lying is aimed toward home and the subsequent ruining that’s come at the hand of one who is meant to nurture and support. Brutal is an understatement when it comes to this bombarding track.
Continuing what’s shared in “After Death”, “Moments (After Death Pt. II)” whispers and screams interchangeably, recounting things that have happened, and the aftermath remaining to be endured. Feeling judged and suffering, broken and unable to heal, this track oozes rawness in its honesty, as though we’ve been temporarily allowed within the psyche of someone flawed and real. Combining gentle guitar melodies and punishing downward slides, the 4:23 track is something of an unfolding story. Subdued at times, it swells into something dark and unfiltered, sharing a slice of destructiveness.
“I’ll cut them all off”
As a fitting close to an album of tales of liars, “Exodus” is a guillotine drop of separateness; rejecting everyone and everything and deciding to live (and die) alone. Lingering on the precipice early in “Exodus”, the statements of severing the world bloom into something greater and greater. Smiles of satisfaction in this decision teeter into something potentially unstable. With the mammoth collision of sounds at 1:58, I’m left wondering if we’re ‘witnessing’ a suicide or something else equally impactful and final. Regardless of the significance, “Exodus” shares an ending that’s powerful, searing, and majestic.
Having experienced the whole of Liar, I’m left with that “whoa” feeling you get after watching an impactful movie; still reeling from it and with cells in the corner of my brain still fondling threads of the plot long afterward. Liar might as well be considered on par with a movie with these scenes it shares. They come dimly lit, soaked in blood and alcohol, and reality keeps either shoving the viewer into horrific experiences or leaving us with a thick grey fog of nothingness. I’m left with the impression that there’s a lot here that I don’t fully understand.
Musically matching a sense of horror and pushing back, Liar is slammingly aggressive throughout, with momentary pockets of experiencing something other than ongoing darkness. My first (background) listen of the album came across to me as a wall of screaming and heaviness. It was only when I took time with the lyrics, immersed into Liar and traced the plotline of emotion from song to song that I felt something carrying importance in the severity. I went from wide-eyed, sitting up straight attention with the floods of fury and confusion, to crumbling into an emotional mess with the vulnerability of tracks like “Pine” and “Love Trader”.
There’s exceptionally raw honesty here, with vocalist Luke Harriss in particular not holding back in any way, but full blown investment felt from all angles. Liar is an expunging of fury, standing up for oneself, seeing promises through, facing blame, and seeking for others to take responsibility, even if this means that you end up alone; the truth mattering more than popularity. The result is something surprisingly artful, and I look forward to letting these songs unravel in my mind over time with further listens.
She Cries Wolf are Luke Harriss (vocals), Kyal Franklin (guitar), Daniel Belic (guitar), and Luke Gal (drums). Liar was written and produced by She Cries Wolf, engineered and mixed by Cory Judd, and mastered by Alan Douches at West Side Music.
The intense and bluntforce approach may make it tough for repeat listens.
Huge and hectic album which moved me in ways I wasn't expecting. The variety of songs and structure felt great and interesting throughout. Admirable honesty throughout this album's dark landscape..