Frail Body- Artificial Bouquet (Album Review)

April 1, 2024


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Screamo has been coming back in a big way over the last five years or so, with plenty of bands offering their take while also bringing in additional influences that results in a fresher sound.  While this type of music never really went away, it feels like the current batch of groups has been getting more exposure and larger fanbases, and this holds true for Illinois based Frail Body.  After releasing two EP’s in 2017, their full length debut A Brief Memoriam made waves in 2019 with its jagged instrumentation and emotional vocals.  Like a lot of musical acts, Frail Body seemed to have some of their momentum derailed by the pandemic and remained quiet on the recording front for some time afterwards.  But they’ve re-emerged with Artificial Bouquet which takes the foundation of its predecessor and ups the intensity further.  With heavier tonality that sometimes bleeds into metal territory alongside the type of bleak and sorrowful melodies you’d expect from screamo and post hardcore, this is an incredible listen that feels both fresh and nostalgic.

Right from the first few seconds of “Scaffolding” it’s clear that Frail Body has made some significant tweaks, as while the blasting, wall of sound approach bears similarities to “Pastel” from the last album there’s considerably more weight to the instrumentation and the tonality has a metallic sheen to it.  Some of the riffing on “Berth” hints at blackgaze with shimmering melodies laid over top of a pummeling foundation, but the group transitions so quickly between blasting and post hardcore/screamo riffs that it doesn’t feel like a complete pivot.  Even with the first two tracks flying by in a few minutes there are a lot of details to each one, and a lot of these start to stand out upon repeat listens.  Following those shorter bursts Frail Body opts to spread out a bit with “Critique Programme” and “Devotion”.  “Critique Programme” starts with a lumbering bass line and guitar work that moves between powerful riffs and more subdued ones, giving off more of a Cult of Luna and post metal feel in between the blasting peaks.  “Devotion” is arguably the most different sounding track on the record, as it builds methodically in a post rock/metal fashion and pulls you in with somber yet entrancing atmosphere.  The rest of Artificial Bouquet takes the elements established by these first four tracks and utilizes them in different ways, allowing the screamo to take back over for more fragile and melancholic moments while also weaponizing the heavier tonality when needed.  There’s a better flow to the material compared to A Brief Memorium, and the consistency of both the intensity and stand-out moments made this an incredible listen from beginning to end.

Another testament to how strong the production values are is the prominence of the vocals throughout Artificial Bouquet.  With a song like “Scaffolding” offering dense and heavy instrumentation it could easily swallow up the higher pitched screams Frail Body has to offer, but they manage to hover slightly above the wall of sound and add even more intensity.  Screamo always tends to be hit or miss with listeners based on whether the shrillness of the screams are enjoyable or not, and that holds true here.  But as someone that spent a good deal of time with the genre’s key 90s bands, Frail Body hits that same level of raw emotion consistently and it kept drawing me back to Artificial Bouquet.  This is especially noticeable on slower moments like “Devotion” where the harshness of the screaming contrasts with the mellower instrumentation, which really makes you feel each and every word.

As much as I like screamo and post hardcore, it can be hard for bands to not just sound like they’re retreading what came before.  Frail Body’s built naturally upon their debut and pulled in elements from different metal genres that makes their music hit much harder than before, while also giving them the time to slow things down and explore some haunting and dark textures.  It’s twice as long as its predecessor but doesn’t waste a minute, and the group’s denser take on screamo feels both familiar and new in equal capacity.  With a sound that may have more crossover appeal to metal fans than is typical for these genres, Frail Body has set the bar high and it will be hard to top this album.  Artificial Bouquet is available from Deathwish Inc.

-Review by Chris Dahlberg