Music Reviews
All At Once

Screaming Females All At Once

(Don Giovanni Records) Rating - 8/10

Screaming Females are not interested in overindulgence. With the world feeling like it’s falling into chaos, the trio have returned with their seventh studio album to roar against the turmoil and pushback on having too much. Too much of what, exactly? Too much desire, too much control, too much escapism, too much everything. The album’s theme is found in its title: All At Once. Throughout the record, the band offers different vehicles for their ire, as they bring a varied sound that bolsters their emotions and message.

Much of the album tackles isolation and degradation of social skills caused by the Internet. When you are always connected to anything you want, it’s harder to step away and see what’s actually around you. It offers a numbing escape when confrontation may be better. As Marissa Paternoster sings on Dirt, “I'll medicate myself/Suspect that idols lie to me/I'll medicate myself/So that the world can lie to me.” Over the snarling grunge riff of Agnes Martin, she laments that there’s “No rooms in this desert made of light” and looks for cover as “The sun destroys me.” Behind the stripped-back, arid guitar of End of My Bloodline, she bemoans power’s “desperate need to have it all.”

All At Once finds the band playing some of the tightest rock songs of their career, while also mining new territory. Fantasy Lens is a pure head-banger with a stuttering guitar pattern. Black Moon and I’ll Make You Sorry are furious salvos. The former burns through knife-edge guitar lines and a tremoring bass. The latter finds Paternoster questioning the song’s underlying rage. She sings, “Am I losing faith in my own anger?/I forgot to punch max out on my own.” Glass House slams into you with a five-count of serrated guitar chords and pummeling drums. The track snowballs into an avalanche, spiraling out into a dense collapse of sound.

On the other end of the spectrum, Deeply throws back to the band’s DIY roots, with Paternoster’s voice muffled. But it also adds in some synth keyboard patterns. Soft Domination also subverts the group’s aggressive sound, dropping out momentarily for what seems to be a children’s choir. Drop by Drop is a gentle, breezy interlude that undercuts the serenity with Paternoster singing, “I am growing old, too drunk in your home/To latch myself sealed shut.”

When the trio stretches their wingspan, though, the music truly excels. Chamber for Sleep is an epic two-parter that twist and turns and shakes and screams. Part One inserts some Doors-style keyboards over scratchy guitars that accelerates into a fiery solo. From there, it segues into a spacey, glistening Part Two, swirling with synths and light guitar picking before bringing a gut-punch of rapid, distorted chords. The album ends with Step Outside, an absolute monster of a closer. The first two minutes sound like if Sleater-Kinney wrote Cherub Rock, filtering catchy, melodic riffage through guitar hero theatrics. Then, it switches gears into a frantic, blistering punk groove. It encompasses the best of Screaming Females, from their early years through today.

In a way, All At Once doesn’t solely describe the forces of paralyzing instant gratification. It can also be a take on Screaming Females’ career up to this point. The intensity of the music and interplay between the trio remains firmly intact and stronger than ever. But beyond that? There are no rules.