“Expressionless War” begins and ends; this is the premise put forth by the Nanjing-based band Fading Horizon on their album Name it Yourself. An interesting concept: expressionless war. It goes on all the time, perhaps without the knowledge of many. Wars between the rich and the poor, city folk and country folk, the underground and the mainstream are ever-present and often covert. The interesting thing about Fading Horizon is that they proclaim these wars have a beginning and an end. It is a peculiarly optimistic stance from a band that sounds so damn bleak.
Just like the horizon divides earth and sky, Name it Yourself hovers in a no-world of shifting questions and polarities. This album has such an all-encompassing aesthetic that it is hard to differentiate between the tracks. Just know that all of the songs are equally dramatic, tight, well-produced, and depressing as hell, in a good way. This album is a lyrical kick in the privates to the bands that play around onstage here in Shanghai sometimes. It is a journey to the place where music matters, where expression is an art form, and where we don’t all have to windmill guitars with plastic smiles pasted to our faces. No one has to sing along, but you will be going for a ride, like it or not.
A few notes about the overall production of the album: First, it’s really accomplished. Miniless Records should be proud of what they have done on this album, LAVA|OX|SEA’s The Next Episode…, and others. What I like about the production on Name it Yourself is that it reflects the overriding theme of dirt, death, and destruction. The sounds appear to be encased in a layer of grime that adds to the negative atmosphere, polluting it even further. The bass guitar is way up in the mix, which makes the sound more heavy. The drums are also well-recorded and on point. Guitars run the gamut from straight-forward rocking chords to layers and layers of ungodly noise. One of the songs, “Rust”, features the effect of the rhythmic panning from one speaker to the other, over and over again. This is disorienting, but that’s the point. “Rendezvous” offers an apocalyptic radio voice decaying throughout the length of the song.
This is an album that will inspire strong opinions, one way or the other, the mark of a good album. I would rather listen to something that seriously disturbs me than an album I feel nothing for. This offering affects me in an adverse way, which, paradoxically, is what I am looking for. It means I am still feeling. I am alive and pissed off about some things.
I can’t, in good conscience, recommend Name it Yourself if you are currently contemplating suicide. However, everyone else is enthusiastically encouraged to get ahold of this album and blast it through your headphones like a virus inserted into your central nervous system. It will not uplift you, but it might wake you up.