I don’t know who you are, but ’68 is the rock project that consists of Michael McClellan on drums and metalcore icon Josh Scogin (ex-The Chariot, ex-Norma Jean) on guitar and vocals. Since forming, the group has put out an EP entitled Midnight in 2013, and their debut LP In Humor and Sadness a year after. Since then, the band has been doing excessive touring, performing with bands such as August Burns Red, Every Time I Die, and The Fall of Troy. They’re a band that, if their studio work hasn’t really stuck with you, I’d absolutely suggest checking out live because they are nothing short of improvisatory geniuses. It’s obvious that they love what they’re doing as they perform, and it made me a bigger fan of theirs than I already was. Now, in 2017, we get their long-awaited sophomore LP Two Parts Viper.
First track “Eventually We All Win” gets the point across. The duo trades much of the hardcore sound of their debut for more experimental sounds, including vocal effects and tons of noise. This leads perfectly into “Whether Terrified or Unafraid,” which pushes this idea further while incorporating a much more rock ’n roll sound. They always had this classic rock ’n roll influence, but on this LP, it has pretty much become their blueprint. Everything else that they put in the music is an added influence. It’s obvious that the group has been incorporating much of the improvisation they’ve been doing live into their music. Tracks like “This Life is Old, New, Borrowed and Blue” feature progressions that just sound like product of a jam session they really liked, so they made it into a song. There’s no problem with that, as it is one of the most fun tracks on the LP. The LP has moments that sound very melancholic, as well. Tracks like “Without Any Words (Only Laughing or Crying)” and “No Montage” have really mellow, downbeat verses that break into noisy, anguished choruses, with Scogin screaming lines like “Long, long way down, long, long way to go!” at the top of his lungs. There’s also some more melancholic tracks that have very heavy noise sections, such as “No Apologies,” where after every line of spoken word Scogin does, there’s this heavy, crushed-sounding burst of drum and guitar noisr.
This goes into the last four tracks of the LP, which get pretty damn bleak as they go along. “The Workers Are Few,”, for example, is almost entirely Scogin singing at a very low tone about how a little hell is “overdue” and how he may never see some person ever again, while the instrumental goes on a heavy crash course through rock music. Next up is “Life Has Its Design,” which is probably one of the most normal tracks on the LP, although it is still pretty damn clippy and noisy. Normal for ’68 pretty much means what's normal for an artist like Merzbow. Next is “Death is a Lottery,”, which is one of the most “epic” sounding tracks on this LP, with a super grand chorus section and Scogin singing lyrics like “Maybe I’m right, maybe I’m wrong / Death is quick, but it can last so long.” I could feel the hairs on my arms standing on end while I was listening to this track. It's just very powerful. That said, nothing can prepare for the closer, “What More Can I Say.” This track starts off with a much more melancholic approach as seen on previous tracks like “No Montage,” with Josh singing about how he believes in someone but doesn’t know how much he can believe in himself. Through this, we get some tape manipulation that gives the song a noisier approach, with Josh singing louder and louder to a point where you can hear his voice cracking, and he moves into Chariot territory just before the instrumental turns down and he sings out “At least in my dreams, I still believe we can,” as the song and LP coming to a grand conclusion of synths, trumpets, and a progression that just got me very, very teary-eyed. My only nitpick is that it should have lasted a little longer,because it kind of just ends, which I don’t think does justice to the passion and emotion of the song.
I won’t say this LP is perfect. I would like to see ’68 do more with the rock n roll oriented tracks, and it could’ve used a more fulfilling ending. That said, there isn’t a bad song on this LP. As blasphemous as it is to say this, I think Two Parts Viper is my favorite thing with Scogin’s name on it. I absolutely love The Chariot and hold them in super high regard, but I feel with Two Parts Viper, Scogin has truly reached a whole new level with his skills as an artist. Michael McClellan’s percussion only enhances the experience. If you want what will probably be the best in experimental rock this year, don’t miss out on this LP.
- Alex Brown.