By Caroline Ackerman
Screaming Females seem like careful surgeons delicately placing creative elements in their new album “Rose Mountain,” released on Feb. 24 from Don Giovanni Records. The trio of artists worked hard to create an album representative of the band’s musical journey. Vocalist and guitarist Marissa Paternoster, bassist King Mike and drummer Jarrett Doughtery are just as relentless and full of creativity as they were when they started playing basement shows in their hometown of New Brunsick, New Jersey in 2005.
Officially six albums and 10 years deep in the underground world of rock, Screaming Females’ new release takes a minor detour from the DIY punk sound that gave preceding albums “Castle Talk” and “Ugly” personality. The newer, more polished sound allows the band some room for even more jarring guitar solos and absolute vocal ferocity reminiscent of late ’70s rock ‘n’ roll.
The band does not completely abandon its usual sound with the new release, but rather “Rose Mountain” curates all the different styles of music Screaming Females experimented with in its decade of being a band. The carefully chosen and polished sound makes the entire album more fluid and organized.
“Rose Mountain” combines the rebellious power of the Runaways and the dark edge of Black Sabbath with the modern indie-punk sound of Sleater-Kinney. Songs “Empty Head” and “Ripe” tear the album open with the honest lyrics, “Why must I be the angry one?” and “I said peel the skin raw.”
The song “Wishing Well” has a more melodic sound, which is carried through in the tracks “Rose Mountain” and “Hopeless.” The song “Broken Neck” expertly blends a catchy tune with the band’s classic roughness. Paternoster’s voice is almost at the point of yelling when she rhythmically belts out “desert flower/golden hour/stepping in/pools of blood,” and takes off as she wails nearly indistinct lyrics.
The lo-fi, in-your-face attitude of the trio is not lost whatsoever with their newer sound, and is seen in a five-minute video of the three brushing their teeth as the album’s final song, “Criminal Image,” cries out in the background. In the spirited and uncanny music video, fans are reassured that the band is doing no more than pushing a more mature sound.
Screaming Females has shared that the album took a lot longer for them to record and mix than prior albums. “Rose Mountain” required time to reflect. In an interview found on the YouTube page of the band’s record label Paternoster revealed that the title for the album is named after the nursing home she drives past all the time in New Brunswick.
Paternoster also revealed that the lyrical content of the album is about being ill and the fear of the uncertain future that comes with lasting illness. The record sounds like a breakup album, but instead of a messy split with a person, it is a breakup one might go through after feeling betrayed by a once-healthy body when facing sudden, unexpected illness.
“Rose Mountain” is a well mapped-out compilation of songs. Punctuating 10 years of Screaming Females, the new album could not have been a better mix of what has made the trio so successful. Raw, full of speed and with a sweet but painful nostalgia laced throughout, “Rose Mountain” does not compromise or overdo the utter power of Screaming Females.
Caroline Ackerman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.