Chvrches (Churches) are back with their fourth album “Screen Violence.” The Scottish synth pop trios’ first album since 2018’s “Love Is Dead” shows that they can still make electrifying music with a twist.
“Screen Violence” is the band’s most conceptual album to date with a horror movie theme. There is this sense of eeriness that prevails throughout the album. You never know what the next song will be about. Lead singer Lauren Mayberry’s songwriting is at its finest on this album. The songs are amplified by the electronic elements done by the other two members Iain Cook and Martin Doherty.
The opening of this album kicks off with the song, “Asking For A Friend;” it starts off with this buzzing sound that gets louder until Mayberry’s voice comes in. In this song Mayberry sings about her regrets in life and wondering if the people she has wronged can ever forgive her. She’s acknowledging her mistakes and wants to get better. This can be seen at the beginning of the song when she sings, “And the songs I wrote ‘bout hearts I broke/Would never come for free/I cheated and I lied/But I meant it when I cried.” Towards the end of the song there is this sense of hopefulness when it explodes into an array of synth, and the lyrics start to be about moving on from one’s mistake. “The past is in the past/It isn’t meant to last.” She wants to let go of the past and move on to what the future may hold.
“Violent Delights” has this haunting quality to it. The vocals echo and at some points it feels like Mayberry is fighting for her voice to be heard against the instrumentals. The vocals are clean and crisp. At times the singing is very robotic. Lyrics such as,”A photograph will steal your soul,” are sung in a monotone way. It makes the chorus of the song much more effective. This jolt of energy comes in when Mayberry sings,”These violent delights/Keep creeping into my nights/And they’re reading my rites.” My personal favorite song is the ‘80s goth rock inspired, “How Not To Drown,” featuring The Cure’s frontman Robert Smith. “How Not To Drown,” has this piano playing throughout it giving the song this ominous feeling. Mayberry and Smith’s voices complement each other when they duet on the bridge, ”Tell me how/It’s better when the sun goes down/ We will never escape this town/I wasn’t scared when he caught me, look what it taught me.” This song shows that the band is not afraid to wear influences on its sleeves. “Screen Violence” is at its strongest when it has these odes to ‘80s electronic and goth music.
The most on the nose horror theme track is, “Final Girl.” Mayberry in this song questions if being in a band was the right choice, “And it feels like the weight is too much to carry/I should quit, maybe go get married.” “Final Girl” also has this claustrophobic feeling to it. As the song gets closer to finishing the listener wonders will she survive? The song plays out like a horror movie, “In the final cut/ In the final scene/There’s a final girl/And you know that she should be screaming.” This track does a great job of evoking an atmosphere with its change of sound throughout.
“Screen Violence” has a much darker sound than its predecessors. This album shows that Chvrches is evolving. The album is at its best when it is embracing something new. Chvrches, like all of us, are growing and maturing. They are not afraid to embrace the past, present and future.