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WPGM Recommends: TRAITRS – Horses In The Abattoir (Album Review)

TRAITRS have been taking the post-punk world by storm with their consistent and gut-punching musical output. Hailing from Canada, they are a band that more people should be talking about.

Over the years they have gained traction with their wistful sound and vocal likeness to The Cure’s Robert Smith. Their music is fundamentally melancholy often combining with picturesque, heartfelt lyricism to create the foundation for their sound. Featuring eerie guitar work, funeral ready synths, and vocals that haunt, the duo is a force to be reckoned with.

The vocal likeness to an eighties superstar comes with an untold pressure. I would wager a bet that when most people hear TRAITRS’ vocals they mutter ‘doesn’t he sound like the singer from The Cure?’ While that is true, it automatically puts them on unequal footing. Make no mistake, this is not a tribute band or a band TRYING to be a new version of The Cure; it is a new breed of talent with a vocalist who is tonally similar.

And with their new album Horses In The Abattoir they well and truly bury that hatchet. The duo has taken the success of their previous album ‘Butcher’s Coin’ and amped it up further. The emotional tidal wave comes as soon as the album opens with “Sea Howl”, a darkly ethereal ode to lost love which plucks the heartstrings so painfully.

TRAITRS take no prisoners as their brand of gothic post-punk flourishes and engulfs you. While “Sea Howl” features luscious instrumentation and sombre storytelling, “Mouth Poisons” is the antidote to that, a suitably hard-hitting anthem.

Undeniable vocal melodies swoon amongst soft guitars and expansive synths to create one of this year’s best songs. Towards the song’s end the bass guitar echoes and thuds, adding the final addition to an already spectacular song.

You would think after two songs the duo would have shown their hand, but that could not be further from the truth. “Prostitution” is heavily influenced by the eighties as trundling drums, and hypnotising synths crescendo in a danceable chorus, with a hook-laden vocal performance sucking you in further. You can just imagine an eighties crowd lost in the moment.

“Magdalene” follows, with its captivating verses highlighting TRAITRS’ lyrical prowess. The chorus is simplistic but echoes the foreboding longing the duo portray. It also shows that the duo has solidified their formula.

Then comes one of my favourite songs from the album “Oh Ballerina”, which encapsulates what TRAITRS are about. It is an ominous number that slowly burns and explodes during the chorus. The chords are frightening, the vocals arresting and the drums function as a warning of what is to come amongst atmospheric synthesisers.

Once again, even amongst the heavy emotions the duo displays their songwriting sensibility. It is an ear worm that wriggles and burrows deep within. Lyrically Horses In The Abattoir has plenty to digest, and while the songs circle similar topics, it is TRAITRS’ approach to them which makes it a success.

They paint pictures with their lyrics and the music is the finishing touch. There is something about the bands ability to bring their songs to life which oozes throughout their work. Their strong songwriting continues to show after the interlude “TV Hours”, with the album’s pace changing gear. While the album’s front half is a steam train that hurtles forward, the latter half embraces different approaches.

“All Living Hearts Betrayed” is the closest the duo comes to sounding like The Cure, as this song feels like it could be on Disintegration. It evokes that album’s grand, gothic backdrop and vocally, it is the closest to Robert Smith they get – and I mean that in the best possible way.

“Ghost and The Storm” returns to the expansive soundscapes and catchiness displayed earlier on but with the razor-sharp lyricism in tow. A twinkling instrumental combination of guitars and synths channel the moonlight hitting the water, met by touching vocal melodies.

TRAITRS close out the album with a glistening finish as “This Way Through A Bird’s Love” expands their sonic palette in a dreamy fashion. Instrumentally it is refined and meditative, sonically conjuring a sense of hope. It borders newer post-punk/synth-pop hybrids and ends the album on an interesting note.

Horses In The Abattoir all but confirms the promise and ability shown on Butcher’s Coin. TRAITRS are one of the best bands in the modern post-punk/goth scene and they deserve more recognition for their powerful musical and songwriting abilities. They are truly a gem amongst the darkness they so effortlessly inhabit.

TRAITRS’ Horses In The Abattoir album is out now via Freakwave/Schubert Music Europe, download and purchase it here and stream it below.

Words by Jake Gould

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