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Therapy? – Hard Cold Fire

Label: Marshall Records / Release date: 5th May 2023
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    Therapy? – Hard Cold Fire - 80%

Some five years since their previous releases Cleave, Therapy? are ready with the follow-up entitled Hard Cold Fire. It marks their second release for Marshall Records and the first time, the long-time collaborator Chris Sheldon has produced band’s two consecutive records.

Since producing band’s breakthrough 1994 album Troublegum, Sheldon has been band’s go-to-guy, especially in periods after the band would venture into more experimental waters, they would often get back into the safe hands of Chris Sheldon. After duo of brilliant and rather experimental Crooked Timber and A Brief Crack of Light the band returned to somewhat safer and more recognisable path with Disquiet and their previous release Cleave. Since recruiting drummer Neil Cooper couple of decades ago, the band has generally been in a good place. There is joy and stability to their releases, live shows, and general overall approach, which serves them very well. Musically they are inspired and hungry, which resulted in lots of rather diverse releases over the years. Even when they go safer, they come across as genuine and curious.

Hard Cold Fire steps bit more out of the formula for which the band is mostly know for without exploring bold unknown waters. As such it lands rather well somewhere between last four records. Sonically it’s raw, yet well balanced with recognisable Sheldon sonic sensibilities, making it easier to digest than for instance Suicide Pact – You First or Crooked Timber.

Album opens in a blistering fashion in form of “They Shoot the Terrible Master”. Those kinds of openers are something we’ve grown custom to in course of Therapy?’s career. Just think of likes of “Wreck It Like Beckett”, “Knives” “Rise Up (Make Yourself Well)” or “Hey Satan – You Rock”.

The opener also serves as a very good indication of what this album. Sonically the stage is set, but also stylistically there is a representative quality to it, with its balance between massive riffs and melodic aspects. Furthermore, the guitars feel reinvigorated, with energy and variety to them, and a stellar balance between intensely heavy and melodic.  In course of its 2 minutes and 48 seconds it checks most Therapy? boxes; massive yet catchy riffs, neck-break rhythms, melodic hooks, cheeky lyrics, and then there is that stellar mood-bending 10-second guitar lead.

Many of the same characteristics portray the entire Hard Cold Fire’s running time of 31 minutes. There is good portion of melodic hooks and twisted turns to make it interesting. The band keeps it simple and to the point making the impact of the songs that much stronger. Same goes for the lyrics, which are short boiled down to the minimum, but just like music with twisted corkiness and the depth. It might not seem so at first glance, but there is lots to dig into even on a philosophical level. Point and case: “Peace as rare as sleep / Trapped in loops of thought / Strangled by the words / I choke because they’re true”.

The intensity of the material draws some parallels to the criminally underrated Never Apologise Never Explain and even though there is not much experimenting on the album, there is a good dose of diversity, especially revealed upon repeated listening. “Two Wounded Animals” digs into 90’s alternative rock and “Ugly” is a classic catchy Therapy? tune in vein with “Screamager” or “Stay Happy”, but with eerie repetitive guitar texture that gives it whole another quality. “Days Kollaps” slows things down some for a worthy album round-up, without being a ballad.

As mentioned above, Therapy? have been at a good place for a long time now, passionate about their music, curious and never looking down at their heritage. The fact that their 16th album (or 14th depending how you count) is as inspired, vital and strong is extraordinary. What’s even more remarkable is that for decades and ever-changing climates of musical business, Therapy? stayed true to themselves and kept on delivering one strong album after another. If you didn’t know that it’s not a shame, but now you know… so you got some catching up to do. “Go!”

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