Published January 12, 2022
The genius of Chastity’s debut in 2018 Desire for death manifests itself in the many avenues it opened for the project’s backer Brandon Williams. Desire for death gathered everything from Deftones and Helmet to Smashing Pumpkins and Hum, enabling 2019’s Homemade Satan to favor haunted lyricism and quiet anxiety while grounding itself in a comparable stylistic context. Suffice it to say, Suffering summer preserves the key principles in this context, this time reminiscent of the tasty hooks and passionate depths of the 90s and 2000s emo.
It is telling that Williams released “Pummeling” as a single, given that he had other thoughts about dropping a song that was so cut-and-dry. The song’s simple, infectious riffs and ear-worm tunes immediately set a distinct tone from Chastity’s darker, more evocative past. In fact, comparisons to classic emo go deeper than Williams’ collaboration with Alexisonfire’s Dallas Green on “Vicious Circle.” Complete with bulging string accompaniment, this surprisingly lush ballad solidifies Suffering summer as an unapologetically pleasing repetition of Chastity’s sound.
In fact, so pleasant that processing the despairing pep talk in “Real World” might require reading the lyrics without listening to Williams’ song: “I think I better suffer / I always feel worse / before I feel better. ” Suffering summer‘s road-breaking fight for happiness (or a longing for it), gives the love-sick “When You Go Home I Withdrawal” a uniquely captivating melancholy: “Kept the door unlocked / So you could get right back in.” Co-written by the PUP lead singer and friend of the band Stefan Babcock, both of these songs deliver exciting syncopation and hymnical brilliance with respective splendor.
Deeper cuts help clarify why Deathwish Inc., of all brands, released Suffering summer internationally. Regardless of the extreme music that Deathwish usually addresses, it is no easy feat to reject Chastity’s tenacious chorus and dynamic nuances because “it is not angry enough.” Whether it’s the breast-pumping gravel from the riff-tasting “Overstimulate” or the lively sheen and climatic peaks of “The Barbed Wire Fence Around Happiness,” Williams extracts compelling intensity and memorable motifs from each end of Suffering summer‘s sonic spectrum.
As a more streamlined affair, Suffering summer benefits greatly from a strengthened production value. “Dying To Live” can hit harder with its mid-tempo bounce, but also lift Williams’ straightforward vocal leads with sweeping shifts to swinging drum tones and sparkling guitar vibe – two aspects it shares with “Somersault.” Based on a voice memo that Dallas Green sent to Williams (the apt title “Pumpkins”), “Somersault” nods to the orchestral beauty of Smashing Pumpkins’ “Tonight, Tonight” on top of hypnotic, powerful riffage. Blissful nihilism secures the song’s place as the album’s highlight, hitting the center of pandemic fear: “Stay in bed, for it’s safe / I’m not going, it’s doomsday.”
Suffering summer‘s emotional quotient hits critical mass with the deceptively energetic “Happy Face” dedicated to Williams’ friend – a victim of fentanylover dose. His memoirs paint a heartbreaking portrait of loss and addiction with his most passionate song to date: “Dopamine is stored in many deadly places / You are the part of me that is missing.” Williams encapsulates this balance between vulnerability and captivating melodies with the finale “Smiling.” Its pristine, striped acoustic guitar and calm groove brings Suffering summer full circle, in pursuit of elusive hope in the midst of tribulation.
From start to finish, there’s enough crunchy distortion and explosive percussion to connect this album’s most popped arrangements with Chastity’s raw start. Herein lies the overall meaning of Suffering summer as Williams’ third artistic metamorphosis. Williams offers a more accessible facet of his vision, but retains the fiery personality that first made Chastity one of Ontario rock’s finest up-and-comers. (Eat alone)