Grace Black – Stifle


Prior to this review, I had been waiting to hear Stifle for a little while now. They’ve been around for over a year, but the Chicago/Milwaukee group has only played a handful of shows. Up until now, they had no recordings, leaving me very curious as to the band’s sound. Grace Black, Stifle’s debut, is a bold answer to that curiosity. Taking queues from the respective members’ old projects, Stifle have built a brand new sound for themselves in the process.

Stifle’s sound is an excellent mixture of punk, screamo and post-hardcore, with a group of songs that go from tender to intense in a moment. Immediately impressive is the impactful drumming, and the huge guitar and bass tones that really define the chaotic mood of the release.

However, the most notable aspect of Grace Black is the dueling vocals of Alex Beyer and Justin Gaworski. At first listen, the overlaying of the vocals is a bit jarring since it seems like the two voices are competing with each other; overall, the two pair pretty well with each other. The dual vocal lines give the songs an added element of tension and force that provides a lot of potential for the future.

Track two, “Testify,” is the stand-out track of the bunch, showing a wide range of skill, tone, and emotion. The opening riff grabs the listener’s attention right away. The introspective spoken word section of the song – which asks questions like, “if I’m so fortunate, why am I always upset? / If I’m so fortunate, why can’t I be a better friend?” – is easily one of the strongest points on the EP.

Looking back at the individual members’ previous projects like Half Milk, Acidic Tree, and Alta, Stifle seems like a natural progression. It becomes immediately clear how much musicianship everyone is bringing to their songwriting. Grace Black is an excellent first impression for Stifle which only makes it more exciting to see what could come in their future as a band.

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