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Nikki Stout writesAlbum Review: Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’ ‘Carnage’

Anyone at all familiar with Nick Cave’s recent work knows that “haunting” may be an overused yet apt descriptor for his songs of sorrow and stoic goth Christianity, and Carnage is no exception.

This eight track album released by Cave and frequent collaborator Warren Ellis gracefully ribbons through the times of sorrow, hope, grief, and finally the whisper of relief as a meditation on, well, the overall state of things as 2021 settles into itself.

Carnage is decidedly gentle, but not mellow. It is delicate in the way most tension is delicate. Simultaneously industrial and orchestral, Carnage offers pitch phasing as a sort of breeze blowing through its tracks, like a shift in the wind which comes seemingly out of nowhere. This tonal breeze beautifully compliments the choral singers present on the majority of tracks, bringing with them a gift of levity and offering of community.

The heart of the album beats strongest in tracks, "Hand of God," "White Elephant," "Lavender Fields," and "Shattered Ground." The opener "Hand of God" rhythmically shoves the listener through an electronic landscape intentionally dissonant in style if not in tone. A driving synth beat under a current of strings implies threat, as the protagonist quickly grabs his pennies to escape what is to come. Paired with "White Elephant," a damning six minutes disparaging the murderous nature of racism and racist political groups. And yet halfway through the track it pivots to hope, bringing the listener to a chorus of, “The time is coming // The time is now,” sung beautifully by a choir of voices, ushering in visions of heaven and rejoicing in themes of Chamber and Gospel music as celebrated by Black communities.

Like any good preacher, Cave knows when to get out of the way and let the voices speak for themselves—to let the word (or Word) speak for itself. Exalted, the listener is taken on a singular road, through a stable love to "Lavender Fields," through which the path to Heaven is found. Noting the complementary nature of the blood red of carnage to the tranquility of lavender, it is in this track that hope lies most tangible. While hope may spring eternal, it is not yet peaceful for "Shattered Ground’s" lonely lady moon. There remains chaos, there remains destruction, there remains carnage.

Releasing this album not under the Bad Seeds moniker but as a partnership just between Cave and Ellis mirrors the confidence in sparsity that grants the album its profound ability to force focus upon single elements of sound and lyric. The expected Bad Seeds vitriol is not found here; in its place lies the dramatic forced reckoning of what 2020 has held and what 2021 continues to hold. As Cave croons, “It is only love driving through the rain,” we can only hope that scattered pieces of a shattered ground are washed away, and a new humanity is recognized once more.

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Categorized: Album Reviews

Topics: album review, carnage, new music, nick cave, nick cave and the bad seeds, warren ellis

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