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Bethlehem Steel - "Docking" | Album Review

by Corey Sustarich

For their fourth release Bethlehem Steel put forward Docking, a five song EP on Miscreant Records. Each song has the lyrical and instrumental weight to pull me down to where depression, loneliness, and anger collide in the dark. Led by Becca Ryskalczyk, the recently transplanted Brooklyn-based band have generated a handful of songs checkered with fuzz, soft vocal melody, punctuating bass, and sinuous drums. The sometimes quivering, sometimes belting voice of Ryskalczyk maintains a sense of order and control over the ever-shifting dynamic. The songs move from discernible structured pop-ish-rock to layered noise brushed with melody. There’s uplifting moments but they fleet to bitter drum fills and faster strumming.

Track one is short and called “One Giant Fuck Machine.” That should shed some light on this EPs subject matter. It also brings forward the fuzz and pop elements. Upbeat, crooked, and manic: “I wanted to be there to hold her / I want to put her head through a wall.” The second track,“87s,” has a chunky set of chords and pulsating rhythm section to backup a mumbling awesome set of vocal hooks. Good guitar work gets lost in a sea of groaning feedback and it moves quick. “Kirstie Alley” is downbeat and building. The vocals maintain some sense of order over the wonderful madness. It’s first half creaks and shimmers strange and haunting. Then it dives headlong into a buncha’ chords and bangs. Ryskalczyk’s voice continues to wedge itself perfectly over undulating drums and a terrifying wall of bass and guitar in “An Unexpected Jurgens.” The voice layering and strange song structure is a storm of ominous noise and inevitable madness. “Yeah, I’m Okay with My Shit Life” is a little bit interweaving guitar and bass, a little bit well-executed time changes, and a whole lot of good. It’s my favorite track of the five for it’s beautiful dynamic shifts and the lyrics: “there’s a note on my bedroom wall / that says remain alone until no longer possible.”

There’s a great overarching fuzz pop element to all the songs. Individually, however, each has a defining strangeness to it. The instrumentation climbs, dips, and bashes. The vocals range from rounded mumbles to blaring howls. From the lyrics I felt an insightful practicality in using pain to get things done. There’s a criticism of positivity but a want to dwell, a sense that not feeling pain is failing.