One needn’t look farther than the title of Montreal four-piece Hooded Fang’s third full-length release to know it’s their darkest yet. Gravez, the follow-up to the Polaris Prize-nominated (and aptly titled) Album and last year’s Tosta Mista, continues in the vein of the band’s psychedelia-splashed garage rock, but with ominous undertones in singer Daniel Lee’s lyrics that juxtapose sharply with the cheery surf-pop guitars Lane Halley and energetic rhythms courtesy of bassist April Aliermo and drummer D. Alex Meeks. The band’s charmingly macabre claim that the material “may refer to the impending lurk of death” substantiates itself through lyrics like “Covered in ash from the night before / we burned our brains ‘til there was no more” and “I run my fingers through an open wound / looking for a place to die”.
Gravez showcases a band, now six years into their career, undoubtedly affected by the arduous and chaotic lifestyle of a touring indie rock band. A sense of world-weariness pervades the album: tracks like “Bye Bye Land” and “Ode to Subterrania”, which features the lamentation “dreams pass you by when you’re living in a basement / days slip away when you’re living in a basement”, offer an older and grayer, but no less enjoyable slice of Hooded Fang’s reverb-heavy rock-‘n-roll à la The Drums and Thee Oh Sees. The album’s strength lies in its capacity to turn fatigue into frenzy, and deathly-titled songs like “Graves” and “Wasteland” ensure the album’s dark themes never sound lethargic.
Imagery of blood and broken bones, hinting at the figurative wounds the group has endured (including the real-life break-up of songwriters Lee and Aliermo) to carry on as a band, is purposefully rife throughout the album’s half-hour running time. Fortunately, Hooded Fang prove the point that which does not kill you makes you stronger, and that which does kill you makes for great material.