Home Made Satan is 2019’s most confrontational rock album.
Chastity’s first album, Death Lust, shocked me. I couldn’t believe its power. Flawless, classic alternative rock production; big emotive choruses and even bigger riffs; passionate and relatable lyrics about growing up sad in suburbia and how to get past that. “Chains,” the album’s closer, was a rallying cry and a plea for those of us who are in turmoil over the state of our world, country, or community not to resort to hate in the face of such adversity Instead, we should begin taking the steps to create a world you want to live in. “Don’t waste your pain on hate / Start your life outside of the chains,” Brandon Williams screamed over the album’s most pit-ready riff. Chastity released 2018’s most promising Canadian rock album and with its follow-up, they have created 2019’s most jarring and confrontational Canadian rock album.
Home Made Satan explores what one must confront to break those chains. And as anyone who spends even a fraction of their waking life thinking critically about the world we live in knows, the coming confrontations are not going to be pretty. What exactly are we up against? Well, just a cursory list: climate change, capitalism, patriarchy, the militarization of police forces, general bigotry, racism, misogyny, dying traditions, disaffection, austerity, and trying to understand how all of these things (and SO. MUCH. MORE) intersect and contribute to the current societal conditions. Oh, and face all of these things without always wanting to die sometimes.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what “protest music” is, what purpose it serves, and whether it really can do anything to change the world we live in. Today, “protest music”is a label attached to a press release in order to give music websites like ours a hook to write about how (insert artists name) was inspired by “our current political climate`.” It is worthless when the lyrics are devoid of any actual politics, which they often are. Of course, inserting actual politics into the lyrics of a rock song does not ensure success. Politics can be ugly. Politics can be boring. Politics can be bad.
In the case of Home Made Satan, the politics are made to sound beautiful by Williams’ incredible melodic ear and exciting because of the lyrics. Some of this will certainly make you uncomfortable, both because you can’t believe he is saying some of this stuff and because you find yourself (I found myself) relating to the anger and desperation for a better society. He sings metaphorically (I think…) about burying your conservative parents; on “I Still Feel The Same” he sings, “if you want to show the world love kill a cop.”; on “Spirit Meet Up” he suggests unmasking and cutting KKK members — and hell yes, I would sing along to any of these songs at a show even if I didn’t know what it was he was actually saying. It is legitimately hard not to. Once you do figure out what Williams is saying, I hope you will take a minute to think about it before reacting to it, but that doesn’t happen too often anymore, does it? These are intense sentiments. They make you question just how far you would be willing to go to create a world worth living in. Are you willing to protest? Are you willing to commit violence? Are you willing to die?
My guess is Williams isn’t bunkered down somewhere ready to unleash the Chasity guerilla militia anytime soon, and that’s ok. There will be listeners who will be turned off by his politics and those that agree with them. But more importantly, there might be some kid somewhere who will come for the riffs and learn from and be inspired by the politics. I personally find some of the violence in the lyrics distracts me from the songs themselves. It has stopped me from feeling as all-in on Home Made Satan as I was on Death Lust. It also distracts from the musical evolution Chastity has undergone over the course of these two records.
The new albumhas a distinctly more lo-fi feel than its predecessor. The songs on Home Made Satan that really work are the ones that lean into the heyday of college rock, at times evoking R.E.M., the Cure, and the Smiths. “Anxiety” sounds like “Subterranean Homesick Alien” from Radiohead’s OK Computer if it was recorded for the first Foo Fighters record. Stand out tracks “Sun Poisoning” and “The Girls I Know Don’t Think So” are excellent evolutions of Chasity’s sound. They soar rather than bludgeon, and both sets of lyrics showcase the sensitivity and thoughtfulness Williams displayed across Death Lust. And yet, despite this record being prettier than Death Lust in many ways, it is more in your face and much more challenging. That’s the point though — solving the world’s problems is challenging and it will get ugly. Chastity reflects that on Home Made Satan, even if it means separating those who have broken free from the chains and those still bound by them.