Legss Blend Terror with Euphoria on New EP ‘Fester’.
The eerie tinkling of piano keys is Fester’s opening track, ‘Motto’. Not a discordant convulsion nor stabbing guitar riff, not a frenzied drum beat nor panicked howl, not the slick yet grating poetic one-liner dripping satirically dry. In fact, there aren’t any vocals at all. Instead, the caustic, fevered, and maverick art-rock quartet open their much-anticipated return with a gentle piano melody. A simple yet taut moment of still beauty accompanied by the distant distorted rumblings of a cello and synth. And then, in one glass-shattering instant, ‘The Landlord’ begins.
The first single to be released from the EP, ‘The Landlord’ sends you hurtling violently into a pool of ice – it’s shocking, initially torturous, but above all, a rare moment of pure unadulterated adrenaline. Abrasive guitar thrashing drives frontman Ned Green’s strained vocals. What follows comes adorned in the remnants of previous releases – the panicked jitters of Doomswayers (2020) and the cutting quips of Writhing Comedy (2019) are ever present – but there’s a new melodic sensitivity and vulnerability embedded in their usual frenetic urgency.
Nowhere is this clearer than in the recently released title track, ‘Fester’. In total command of the frustrated energy and instrumental aggression that trademarked their formative years, this track is an elegant and deliriously unexpected development of their dark, satirical edge. Launching into a richly textured amalgam of near-symphonic effect, the track masterfully balances measured drum beats and glittering guitar riffs against ghostly reverb and piercing feedback. The result is a constant and maddening sense of unease that embeds terror into moments of quiet euphoria.
There is a palpable maturity to their musicianship, a renewed mastery that sees each note more sensitively deployed and perfectly in place. The rich and addictive bassline riff in ‘Sister, Brother’ fuses together notes that have always belonged together. Listening is a relief akin to breathing deeply after a blocked nose – a bodily experience, impossible to pinpoint but primordial and deeply satisfying.
And as the bass sways threateningly into the chilling drones that open ‘Daddy There’s Sand in the Sandwiches’, the unease that slips fluidly in and out of sight throughout the tracks comes to the fore. It feels limiting to describe it as a mere sonic experience – it’s cinematic, a kind of dark magic that’s spellbinding but so disquieting you’re afraid to trust the soothing lull of faded voices and guitar. Rightly so. Just over 2 minutes in and you’re validated for having instinctively held your breath since the beginning. A resonant sigh triggers a new sinister wave of sound with all the swiftness of a storm after the calm. Each instrument feels its way towards some lofty summit. Urgency pierces through jagged chords, a buzzing chorus interject Green’s brooding lines and end maddeningly on the precipice of an unnamed tragedy.
Fester closes somewhere between sleep and waking, with Green’s whispered poetry echoing like the last fragments of a dream. ‘Atlantic Road’ is drowsy, languishing in a simple piano melody that is achingly raw and tender. Its poetry is the poison within the delicate white petals of the Lily of the Valley. ‘I tell the dog by the recreation ground that it could do with a martini’ croons Green, ‘and that if it passes that ball to me once more, I will extricate it of all its air when everyone is watching.’
Legss have never fit neatly into a box, nor have they tried to. Their work has always been stubbornly unpredictable, embroiled in its own set of literary and artistic references, unaffected by the surrounding noise. This detachment has allowed them to craft a sound that is uniquely their own. Capturing the vertigo – in all its nausea and latent anxiety – of treading uncharted ground, Fester is magnificent. And it is unlike anything you will hear this year.
‘Fester’ is out on 9th June via The state51 Conspiracy. Pre order a copy here.
Issue Forty-Four of So Young is out now. You can purchase in print here or read the digital edition below.