The concepts and the all too real, bleak experiences of mental hardships and loss of loved ones will be well known to many people and additionally to many people we know. For Stake, these have been the fuel for the band since their inception (previously under the Steak Number Eight moniker), a vehicle for vocalist/guitarist Brent Vanneste’s grief and anxiety.
Additionally, guitarist Cis Deman has opened to the loss of two of his cousins prior to the writing of this album, adding extra weight to the new album Love, Death and Decay (Hassle Records).
What has been made clear is that both Vanneste and Deman’s viewpoint of such harrowing experiences is focused somewhat differently and the results are an album that is challenging, diverse and nearly disparate, but certainly entrancing. As the opening (on the digital version at least), title track slowly creeps in it generates a sense of tension which thrusts in to pained sounding shouts and a bouncy riff before this later drops in to a more ethereal soundscape, building up once again in the song’s conclusion.
This more contemplative, almost post-rock aspect is more prominent throughout the album’s duration, contrasting with the aggression and heaviness also permeating throughout. ‘Deliverance Dance’, for example, sees the band weave between these aspects. In contrast, “F*ck My Anxiety” is a desperate, in your face entity which shows in no uncertain terms a window of the mental hardships that Vanneste experiences and is a striking moment on the album. Short and considerably punchier than much of the albums more explorative sounds.
‘Zone Out’, similarly, is a sonically more upbeat affair, feeling reminiscent of Discipline era King Crimson through a grunge lens. But with further listens, particularly of the more expansive songs, Love, Death and Decay reveals further intricacies and influences throughout. It requires a full focus to embrace the sheer depth within.
Love, Death and Decay is a rich, at times chaotic and challenging listen which conveys a multitude of styles and tones throughout, with a thread through some of it which is at first maybe difficult to follow. But with its source material of pain and grief made abundantly clear, this is seemingly by design. As the process for different people with different experiences of course can vary hugely, everyone’s journey is different. The range Stake tries to convey throughout is captivating and reflects on the different emotions people may go through, and for that, this is a fascinating and rewarding listen.
7 / 10