Melodic hardcore quartet The Amsterdam Red Light District (or TARLD for short) have just released their third full-length album Sapere Aude. Named after Immanuel Kant’s 1784 essay “What Is Enlightenment?”, the Latin phrase “Sapere aude!” urges one to have the courage to use their own understanding, without guidance from another, breaking through laziness and cowardice to be mature enough to think for oneself and be one’s own ‘guardian’ in this way. If that’s not an exciting invitation to get to know an album, I don’t know what is.
On a warm Melbourne morning I dove into the album, having thoroughly enjoyed single “Carry On” already, and keen to soak up more of that high energy. “Nobody Moves Like You” is where the album starts, edgy from the outset with sick riffs and squeals. Driving from end-to-end, this opener track made me feel like throwing myself around, along with the chaotic and slithering vocals, and non-linear sound. Its vibe is “Are you awake yet?”.
“The Best Is Yet To Come” is the fast-paced and banging second track. The vibe is overwhelm and wall-of-sound hugeness, with a sweet guitar solo and blistering vocals. Relentless determination drives this track, feeling like ‘what you see is what you get’ after a ‘wow’ build-up leads to a strong chorus. Layered vocals add to the collective forces. When it all fades away, all that’s left is hope.
Third track “Need” pulls us into riff city with a guitar focus before collision of parts and spat out vocals. It’s a chaotic mix of sounds, anchored by droning riffs and urging beats. “Need” fiercely asks if we’re paying attention, and sets the scene with a satisfying build-up that drops into riff heaven. It’s taunting and threatening, as TARLD go all-out with musical prowess on all fronts.
Swept up into “Wild Life” at the fourth track, it is yet another fast-paced ‘keep up with us’ track, which has me wondering if we’re going to get a breather, or another angle of flavour from this band sometime soon. Again TARLD are all-in and asking for our attention. Hectic and driven, with a ridiculously huge breakdown/guitar focus, “Wild Life” is relentless.
“If I don’t know myself, how can you know me anyway?”
Banging and electro fused, “Carry On”‘s beats are stalking and relentless, backing the searing vocals as they rip through the track. “Carry On” is akin to swallowing a pill of fire and enjoying the aliveness that occurs when one is ripped open from the inside out. It’s the most blatant link to the album’s title for me, and takes an angle of stagnancy-destruction, and self-reinvention as revenge. It’s an undeniably hot track and its put-togetherness feels more suited to the band’s sound than some of the more chaotic takes.
“Over the Fence” follows and crushes office related mundanity with fiery hardcore. It’s all very cool, and a more measured pace feels as if a challenge and threat is being issued via drums. It’s a subtle breather for the listener while still remaining strong and still feeling punishing, revolution-inspiring, and attention-seeking. The bridge is a sonic stand-out to me, as is the track’s flow directly into “Waiting for the Day”.
Opening with divine riffage, “Waiting for the Day” is so sick, feeling controlled and dark before expanding into in-your-face territory. Over the process of listening, my focus felt scattered and split, uncertain where to ‘put my ears’ and I surrendered to being tossed around on waves of sound as they came. Fiery vocals along with exceptional guitar prowess work very well here. As a track, its vibe is both complex and driving.
The gritty piece-y nature of “The Whole City Burns”, along with a rap quality to the vocals is very cool in its difference. I found the clean vocals out of place on this track, wanting only the ‘dirtiness’ instead of the melodic sing-song nature of some lines through the verses. Regardless it’s a great track, and something with a refreshing different feel to other tracks on Sapere Aude so far.
Driving and solid, ninth track “Evil Stackholders” is more of the signature TARLD sound, with stand-out freshness of sound with the pre-chorus and chorus. Having focusedly listened to the album from end to end, I desperately craved something different, despite the track being strong and tight. Perhaps with more connection to the lyrics (which I don’t have access to), maybe this would be less of an issue.
Definitely different is the album’s title track, with “Sapere Aude” closing the track. Featuring wind chimes as well as audio samples of newscasters as well as the voice of Donald Trump, the track takes on the feel of an increasingly horrifying statements from people in power, and a sense of monsters breathing down our necks. Time ticks on and we are left with the repeating statement “Dare to be wise. Enlighten your mind.”
Having absorbed the ten tracks of Sapere Aude, I can’t help feeling a little frustrated. I’m left wondering where some of this title track’s experimentation and perhaps ‘controversy’ was through the entirety of Sapere Aude. It seemed that the band were playing it safe by way of their sound through the rest of the album, even though that sound was indeed relentless, strong, and impactful. I didn’t feel a push into ‘enlightened’ sound that the theme of the album hinted at, just very solid tracks that would set a crowd alight. I’d love to hear music from TARLD that takes their undeniably skilled musicianship and courageously focuses it in directions that feel barrier-breaking and truly alive, and am keen to watch the band as they continue to evolve.
Fierce compositions and relentless energy throughout. Stand-out guitar prowess and vocal versatility over the course of these massive tracks.
The album concept of bravely following self-informed guidance unfortunately didn't translate to unique sounding tracks. I craved greater difference between tracks across the album.