REVIEW: PALM (Japan) | To Live Is To Die, To Die Is To Live (2018)

BAND: PALM (Japan)
RELEASE: To Live Is To Die, To Die Is To Live (2018)
LABEL: Deliver B Records (Japan)/ EVP Recordings (Australia)
REVIEWER: Arthur Urquiola
FIND MORE INFO HERE: https://www.facebook.com/palmjpn/
PICK UP THE RECORD HERE: https://evp-recordings.bandcamp.com/album/to-live-is-to-die-to-die-is-to-live

It has been four years since the last release from Osaka, Japan’s PALM – a three-track ep entitled ‘The Unusual’ – and a full six years since their last full-length lp – ‘My Darkest Friends’ – but the band has been far from inactive. They have taken their Dark Hardcore all across the globe to pummel audiences and further raise their reputation as one of the wildest live experiences out there, holding their own while playing alongside everyone from DS13 and MDC to Integrity and Deafheaven.

Despite a new lineup and the intervening years since ‘My Darkest Friends’, PALM’s new record ‘To Live Is To Die, To Die Is To Live’ has a lot to live up to. The former was brutal as all hell, but it had plenty of Punk Rock attitude and Southern Rock swing popularised by bands like Every Time I Die. It seamlessly shifted between Entombed’s Death Metal attack to later Entombed’s Death n’ Roll and from pained and cathartic Sludge, to Grindcore fits.

‘Scapegoat’ explodes with blast beats right out the gate. About halfway through, dissonant riffs and harmonics transition into a discombobulating chug, which acts as a harbinger of the crushing breakdown that ends the track in under two minutes. ‘Scapegoat’ is an exhilarating start to the record and you could imagine it starting PALM’s live sets and sparking the chaotic energy depicted in the song’s video.

Barely giving the listener a chance to recover, ‘Only Ego’ and ‘Dedicated Humanity’ are deployed in quick and furious succession. It’s all a blur of relentless drumming that blasts, but nails changes in a split second, and heavy guitars with a lot of raunch, while peeling out compelling riffs until the latter track’s seamless flow into ‘Burn The Silence’, a highlight of the album. It plays like a slightly less dizzying take on Converge’s ‘Dark Horse’, while maintaining the same kind of propulsive groove. Aside from mixing and mastering the record, Taylor Young from Twitching Tongues and NAILS lends his distinctive playing to a squealing guitar solo. Young’s not the only guest on the record, with Kai from Osaka’s NUMBERNINE lending his vocals to ‘Blood Clot Of Pain’.

While there is much on ‘To Live Is To Die, To Die Is To Live’, and PALM’s catalogue in general that can be tracked to inspiration from Converge, Cursed and bands associated the famed GodCity Studio, there is more to PALM than just being a ‘made in Japan’ Deathwish Inc. band. There’s a direct lineage to the country’s Punk Rock past, particularly the monolithic and overbearing cacophony of GISM’s last album SoniCRIME TheRapy and the prodigious speed-shifting of Grindcore bands like 324.

While ‘My Darkest Friends’ may have clearly shown more of PALM’s eclecticism across the board, elements like the baritone, Southern Rock riffage are still in ‘To Live Is To Die, To Die Is To Live’, showing up in the middle of ‘Call Of Disorder’. This time round, PALM seems to be utilising their versatility to sharpen individual compositions; working with some concision as opposed to throwing every idea at each song. ‘Ex-Owner Is Fucked’ is one of the record’s slower and more sinister stomps that add some sense of balance in the onslaught. Naturally, ‘Leave Me Alone’, the album’s shortest track, follows immediately after.

‘音我苦 -ONGAKU-‘ IS another Punk Rock rager, with a shredding solo courtesy of Gridlink’s Takafumi Matsubara. However it’s the profundity of the lyrics that are particularly striking. Initially reading like nihilistic poetry, its the unending feeling of hopelessness and inevitability that makes even the most fleeting moments of joy and inspiration of a great live show worth a life of pursuing creative endeavours.

The closing and title track ‘To Live Is To Die, To Die Is To Live’ takes up a sixth of the record’s entire runtime. Even at a slower pace, the song still manages some smooth, but stark shifts in its later half. The final instrumental passage ends with the instruments ringing out, a nice contrast to the earlier bludgeoning of successive songs, some of which transitioned into one another.

While a little less mercurial from song to song, PALM does retain their characteristic epic dramaticism. The progression over their decade as a band to a more streamlined approach when it comes to arrangements means ‘To Live Is To Die, To Die Is To Live’ is more suited to being appreciated as a cohesive whole. It’s a work crafted with sincerity that has real potential to put PALM more visibly on the map before they inevitably tear their way across it.

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