Review of Casper Skulls' 'Mercy Works'

Buzz Records


Casper Skulls

Mercy Works

If you’ve ever seen Toronto’s Casper Skulls live, there’s an immediately gripping sense of atmosphere when they play. Coming in on their first full-length record, they’ve truly stepped things up to truly capture their magic on stage. Through a masterful use of effects, a dynamic and emotive use of effects, and something deeply personal, Mercy Works is a constantly stirring listen that constantly stirs one emotion or the other. One of the year’s must-listens, the deep sense of excitement is so tangible on this record that it will have you racing to listen again and again.

With mysterious swells of feedback and processed synth line, “Mercy Works” starts the album with a bizarre mix of frequencies. Setting the stage for the sonic leap they make on this album, the handfuls of strings give the song a majesty they never even touched before.

“You Can Call Me Allocator” rings out each hook with a suave staccato rhythm as Bednis belts out his verse with a strange sincerity. As the harmonies start to rise through the chorus, there’s a serene pop beauty that feels deep and layered, making the song a relaxing wash of vocals. Taking heavy notes of tremelo to their guitars and a dreamy attack on the vocals, “Lingua Franca” is an inviting piece that evolves pop singles of the past beautifully. The message of communication floats through with the heavenly string arrangements to make the song elevate to something dense yet simple.

Stripping the sound back more than expanding it, “What’s That Good For” has a weird dynamic edge to its stop and start writing. A little slower in the verses unfortunately, the hazy bliss of every chorus and grinding bridge more than hits the mark. Taking an unsettling rhythmic push on “Primeval,” they slowly wrench up the sound, enveloping the listener in an intoxicating wash of emotive effects. As the strings enter, the waves of colour in the effects are in full swing, creating mesmerizing music out of even the spaces in between, and their chorus chants just take it further.

“Colour of the Outside” opens like a slow sunrise before cutting in sharply for St. Pierre’s impassioned verses that balance criticism with metaphorical beauty. Yelling together through the choruses as the string sections serpentine, there’s an invigorating tone to the each hook, feeling exotic as a result. The final explosive pushes in the song’s extended bridge are a sonic explosion that leave the ending like its own sort of prologue. While “Chicane, OH” feels very similar to many tracks on this record, the exciting writing and the overall sound the band has pulled together on this album make it a trip nonetheless. St. Pierre’s blissful energy in the song is so relaxing as well that it’s easy to get lost while listening.

Crisp guitars set the tone for “I Stared At ‘Moses and the Burning Bush'” as Bednis uncertain lyrics on religion match his rising and falling energy in their delivery. It’s the punch of energy that Bednis and St. Pierre bring together on the chorus though that really kick the song forward as their simple roar is enough to stir energy in listeners on a mostly shoegaze-style track. “The Science of Dichotomies” swerves with a brilliant slide guitar lick that St. Pierre plays against and in tune with on the song for some truly goose bump inducing vocal moments. Feeding their energy back into their instrumentation, the song’s final half finds the band creating brutal walls of sound that pull out a different side of their emotional pallet.

“Glories” finds the band pushing their capabilities writing wise as they stack chords on each other, building notes in until they reach a massive peak and just drop distortion on it to make a massive bonfire of sound. Energetically doing this vocally in the song’s second half the track keeps this momentum going while psyching out listeners on multiple occasions. Closing the record with the sliding riffs of “Faded Sound” they burn out their reverb for a song with a truly soothing sense of melody.

Words by Owen Maxwell