“We’re all sentenced to solitary confinement inside our own skins, for life.” – Tennessee Williams –
Isolation can be a wonderful thing. Some of the best art the world has ever seen has been created whilst the artist was being secluded from the rest of the world. Ian Curtis wrote many of his best songs whilst separating himself from those around him, and even Kurt Cobain was deemed a prisoner of his own loneliness, which may have been a reason for his suicide. The fact that World Of Metal And Rust use instrumental tracks devoids all the songs presented here of a human aspect, resulting in fifty-four minutes of isolation, away from the human world.
World Of Metal And Rust is a one-man project from the US comprised of Ross Dabrowski. Straight from opening track “Prisoner A,” it is evident that the music presented here relies heavily on atmosphere in order to create the soundscapes that Dabrowski aims for. Atmosphere is created through his use of repetition of samples, echos and volume swells. Though repetition is a common feature throughout the album, more often than not, it never seems lazy. One might think Dabrowski is repeating something purely to fill time, but instead it adds to the overall mood of each piece. As is evident in most songs on the album, the repetitive beats and samples lull the listener into an almost hypnotic trance. Many of the dissonant volume swells in the album opener seem incredibly ominous, again reinforcing the idea that this is not joyous music – “Songs For Prisoners” is not an album you listen to during your break at college whilst talking to all of your friends – it should be enjoyed in the very way the title suggests, in isolation.
“Prisoner D” deserves a paragraph all to itself. It opens with what can only be described as the sounds of steam, followed again by more volume swells. Dabrowski chooses to lay an echoing hip-hop drum beat over the top, which is sure to please fans of Massive Attack and Burial. Halfway through the track the song cuts to silence and we see the song build itself back up through its use of volume swells and dissonance. The atmosphere Dabrowski strives for is most successful here, as the latter half of “Prisoner D” is absolutely horrifying and unsettling. Upon my first listening in my darkened bedroom I had to close my eyes and pull the covers over my head, hoping – praying – that the song would end soon.
That’s not to say Dabrowski’s experimentation is always successful. The latter half of “Prisoner C” sees one particular drum beat get louder and louder, but it’s hip-hop stylings contrast (and not in a good way) against the dissonant piano line, coming off as silly sounding, as it completely breaks the mood and undermines what the album has been working so hard to achieve for the previous eight minutes. Again, the drum sample that fades in during the start of “Prisoner E” seems a little too loud in the mix, and like “Prisoner C,” counteracts what Dabrowski is aiming to achieve. While it could be argued that at nearly fifty-five minutes, both the running time and the ambiance push the limits of accessibility for the casual listener, making it seem a little pretentious and overbearing, the album’s successes overshadow its pitfalls.
Whilst “Songs For Prisoners” has its flaws, World Of Metal And Rust show potential to make an utterly fantastic album in the near future. The album’s successes lie in its ability to communicate absolutely horrific imagery to the listener, due to its incredible use of ambiance. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to retreat back to the comfort of human interaction to make the dark room I’m sitting in a little less scary.