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To All Trains (Shellac) – music review

It really shouldn’t be a surprise that it was impossible to listen to the new Shellac record without mourning the sudden loss of Steve Albini 10 days before its release. With that said, Shellac’s latest album To All Trains, their first record of new material in ten years, is a fierce and now permanent reminder of why the band will remain a critical staple in the noise rock and post-hardcore scene. Known for their abrasive sound and no-nonsense approach to music, Shellac once again delivers an album that is both challenging and exhilarating. From the opening track, “WSOD,” the band sets a relentless pace with Steve Albini’s signature jagged guitar riffs, Todd Trainer’s pounding drums, and Bob Weston’s thunderous bass lines. Many of these tracks have been played live for years, so fans will find some of the songs familiar. You will also be thankful that they now exist in this permanent form. The production is smooth, capturing the band’s live energy and emphasizing their minimalist yet powerful sound across these 10 tracks. The trio’s synergy here will forever shine as the band simmers, shreds, explodes, and is in full control of your experience for To All Trains‘ short and focused 28 minutes.

Shellac’s music style can be considered both noise rock and post-hardcore, with a distinctive blend of minimalist composition, aggressive soundscapes, and intellectual lyricism, all delivered with a level of precision and intensity that commands attention. Nothing has changed on To All Trains!

In a world where polished and predictable music dominates the airwaves more than ever, Shellac’s To All Trains is a breath of fresh, albeit harsh, air. It’s a testament to the enduring power of uncompromising art and a reminder that sometimes the best music is the kind that doesn’t hold back. To All Trains may be Shellac’s most sonically focused record; it sounds absolutely astonishing through headphones, with each instrument having its own showcase within each track.

The opening track “WSOD” is killer and a great “we’re back with an album” sort of punch, as it’s mostly instrumental and introduces the trio’s instruments one by one, isolating them and then combining them. It is such a cool opener, as its last 20 seconds unleash hell! “Chick New Wave” is one of the fastest, most aggressive songs, changing up Shellac’s more standard formula as it buzz saws its way out of your speakers. “Scrappers” is a fantastic angular song that weaves in and out with its noise assault and finds you screaming along “we’ll be pirates!” “I Don’t Fear Hell” is an eerie closer but almost fitting, as it contains one of the best choruses with Albini stating, “If there’s a heaven, I hope they’re having fun, ’cause if there’s a hell, I’m gonna know everyone.”

Shellac’s lyrics are an integral part of their identity, mirroring the band’s raw and uncompromising musical style. Steve Albini’s writing on To All Trains can be characterized by its directness, cynicism, and sharp observational quality, making the lyrics a powerful component of this record’s lasting overall impact and a satisfying final chapter to Steve’s legacy!

Thomas Wilde
For more of Thomas Wilde’s music reviews, check out The Fire Note

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