“David Comes to Life” is a behemoth on multiple levels. The latest from the hyper-prolific Toronto hard-core band [Expletive] Up is an 80-minute rock opera that weaves a complicated narrative through 18 songs, all of it nearly impossible to comprehend thanks to singer Damian Abraham’s unrelenting, drill-sergeant barking. Yet somehow the album never feels overwhelming. As one song slams into the next, with piles upon piles of guitars screaming as loudly as the singer, it simply feels cathartic and never excessive. Few albums this year will ask for more of your time, but none will return as much on the investment.
As long as Abraham’s full-throated growl remains the band’s focal point, the group will never completely escape its hard-core tag. Breakneck two-minute chargers are a thing of the past, though, replaced with well-manicured, full-bodied alt-rock anthems. Even more than Abraham, it is guitarists Mike Haliechuk, Josh Zucker and Ben Cook that set the sturdy foundation for the album. The rare triple-guitar attack provides each song with a thick wall of sound built upon churning riffs, twinkling melodies and the occasional searing solo. Whether the moment calls for a blazing blur (“Queen of Hearts”) or a more majestic soundscape (“The Other Shoe”), the trio provides the proper roar.
As far as concept albums go, “David Comes to Life” is minimally pretentious. There are no atmospheric time-wasters, reprises or other indicators that usually announce an album as “epic.” Common themes of lost love and regret are universal enough to make each song work individually. “We’re running on nothing / The fumes of our dreams / At another point in my life / That was good enough for me,” Abraham shouts on “Running on Nothing.” Coming from Abraham, even that resignation is life-affirming. It’s a fist-pumping chorus set to air-guitar heroics, and there are 17 more songs just as thrilling.
“Queen of Hearts,” “Running on Nothing,” “The Other Shoe”