by Niccolo Dante Porcello (@chromechompsky)
Life is Alright, Everybody Dies, the follow up to Kal Marks’ 2013 LP Life Is Murder, comes at a time where the tide of cynicism washing over the world is ubiquitous and unmissable. The Internet, the spaces around us, and collective world seem to be bearing the brunt of an age that has by and large grown callous with the concept of humanity. As there are so many good reasons to be doubtful about our smoke and mirrors ‘advancement’ as a world, cynicism seems like a fairly good choice. It is profoundly easier and more conducive to a successful day-to-day existence to just say fuck it. This is where Kal Marks comes in, preventing any absolutes from being established. Life is Alright, Everybody Dies is ostensibly, if not just titular-ly, a more positive take on the brutality of life than was Life Is Murder.
In the three years between these records, Carl Shane’s song writing has gotten ontologically more positive, moving from the bleak-rock of songs like “All I Want in Life Is A Solid Porch” to the resigned-into-acceptance “Coffee”. As Shane begins yelling “there is always something wrong with me” repeatedly, the tonality implies less a personal gripe, and more of an acceptance of what we’ve been dealt. This sentiment is found throughout the album – little moments where coming to terms with it is suddenly not such a mystery, and it’s where LIAED flourishes.
Musically the album retains all of the heft of Kal Mark’s prior outings, if not doubled down at moments. “Dorothy” is a deluge of sound counterbalanced by extremely refined (slightly) quieter passages that reflect the permanent dissonance Shane’s songwriting plays upon. The opening moments of “Heavy Hands” are some of the most intricate on the album, with Alex Audette’s versatility and speed serving as a vehicle for a wall of distorted bass tone and grainy guitar. Likewise, “Everybody Dies” is a true heavy hitter, and one of the best songs on the album. Shane’s unhinged yelling on “Mankind” is reminiscent of Rick Maguire’s wilder moments (see: “idiot the chef”), but somehow even more bananas.
Life is Alright, Everybody Dies is a complex beast, and one that requires numerous listens to fully engage. Kal Marks are making a brand of catharsis rock that seems content being deeply isolated from a wider audience -- it’d be a stretch to say that Shane wants everyone to understand what he’s created. This benefits Kal Marks though, as they’re one of the bands (many others of whom are also on the EIS roster) that make their name finding a middle ground between relatability and extraordinary talent. LIAED is a meaningful, deeply crafted work that sonically and emotionally pushes up against the urge to just burn it all down, and that alone is worth many listens in its own right.