On its new record, Baltimore's Noisem tackles some weighty issues | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

On its new record, Baltimore's Noisem tackles some weighty issues 

"Blossoming Decay has a metaphorical and literal meaning — metaphorical blossoming from the birth of a broken home, which is a personal reflection."

Two things to keep in mind if you're talking to Noisem: Don't discuss how young they are and, more importantly, don't compare them to Slayer. They get that a lot.

"I feel like it's more of a cop-out for people who can't compare the music to anything else ... without actually analyzing what's going on in the music," says Tyler Carnes, the band's lead screamer.

While some of the band's detractors lazily reduce it to a Slayer knock-off, Carnes pointed out in a recent Facebook comment that his band "only listened to The Cure and Thin Lizzy" when writing Blossoming Decay, Noisem's firecracker of a second album. Not to mention that his dad brought Carnes up on a healthy musical diet that ranged from Black Sabbath to Funkadelic to Motown. It's less condescending, though no less annoying, when critics marvel at the band's youth: the current lineup ranges from ages 17 to 23.

The members of the Baltimore band were even younger when they released their first album, Agony Defined, in 2013. And given the major leap forward they've taken on Decay, the maturing shows. The first LP was a crushing 24-minute blitzkrieg of metal, blending thrash, death and grindcore. While Noisem hasn't shifted away from brevity, it's using the time wisely. Blossoming Decay is a more measured and varied outing than its predecessor, both lyrically and sonically. Agony Defined never took its foot off the pedal, but Decay turns out to be a far more dynamic effort. It even leaves room for ambient cello sections, which were scored by Carnes' brother (and Noisem bassist), Billy, and performed on the record by Tyler's neighbor.

  • Photo courtesy of Spencer Waddell
  • Rotten Sound: Noisem

On Blossoming Decay, Carnes internalizes the agony and bottled-up emotion from his past for a startlingly personal record, full of anxiety and grisly imagery. Carnes' mother abandoned the family at a young age — which he won't get into specifics about — but he indicates that fingerprints of his difficult upbringing are all over the album.

"Blossoming Decay has a metaphorical and literal meaning — metaphorical blossoming from the birth of a broken home, which is a personal reflection," Carnes said. "But the literal meaning is the decay of the urban landscape that is constantly surrounding us."

Carnes talks about seeing this decay every day in Baltimore, but cites recent protests after the death of Freddie Gray — which he participated in every day they were happening — as positive change blossoming from the decay. Although many in the media dubbed the protests as "riots," Carnes prefers the term "uprising."

But Blossoming Decay works best on the micro level, with unnerving scars, burns and lacerations brutalizing the songs' protagonist. It's painful description, but it's the sound of Carnes finally coming to grips with his childhood, all through a lens he couldn't access before.

"Most of the lyrics are personal reflection and seeing the light with new eyes," Carnes says. "Trying to figure out what happened in the past — putting it down on paper."


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