“Brendan, put down the knife / I love you too much to let you take your life / and I won’t let you try again / won’t let daisies grow through your head / won’t let daisies grow through your skin.”

Slow Burn, the first release on Flower Girl Records started by Old Gray’s own vocalist/guitarist Cam Boucher, is an unflinching, unapologetic scream at the world, mental illness and death. Old Gray have long been revered within modern emo, and with their latest album, they have cemented themselves as some of the most talented modern musicians with their heaviest material to date. It’s reflexive of the struggles of others and of Boucher himself, expressing a chaos only fully comprehensible in the emotion of music.

The opening three tracks each float around a minute in length, delivering punishingly abrasive instrumentals among screams and setting an atmosphere of desperate urgency present through much of the album. The opener, “Pulpit,” effectively intertwines screams of suicidal thoughts with calm monotones contemplating the helplessness of attempting to heal. It’s an incredibly raw look into the cognition wrought upon a sufferer of mental illness — a tango of anger and surrender to your own thoughts.

By the third track, “Blunt Trauma,” the focus shifts to loved ones who have succumbed to suicide. “Long live the Devil and all hail the saints / Chewing up stars with their names / Angel, I feel your pain / I understand why you’d want to take it all away.” Instead of the usual emotions surrounding social views of suicide, Boucher expresses comprehension, even longing in their fate. It’s an abrupt viewpoint, atypical of most music, and it produces a necessary shock of eye-opening insight into the theme of mental illness.

“Like Blood from a Stone” is quite possibly one of the hardest songs I have ever listened to in my life (yes, I cried three separate times), and the first half of the song consists only of simple monologue, a tale of self-harm, hospitalization and ultimately the beginnings of recovery, before the band even adds their overwhelming immediacy with shrill notes and periods of silence. The level of detail produced in these four minutes forces itself upon the listener, a single story with so much feeling it wouldn’t let anyone leave unaffected.

This track also revealed a remarkable symmetry, both within the song and within the album. It’s flanked by two instrumental piano tracks, titled “I” and “II” respectively, individually setting separate tones for the beginning and exit of the narrative.

Within the track, Boucher details an incident with a workplace bully before the self-harm, “And you panic when you realize what just happened because the boy who picked up your notebook, he’s a cruel boy / with eyes like shotguns and razor wire.”

He follows this later by depicting a befriended patient in the hospital: “And there’s a man / maybe ten years older than you, with eyes like rough-cut pine and sunset.” At the beginning of the song, the protagonist writes poems of aching solitude, while ending with poems of infinite possibilities and clear skies, alluding to an escape from mental confines.

It’s this symmetry of opposites that defines Slow Burn as an incredible work of art. The ending isn’t necessarily the standard definition of “closure,” but it shows intent to move in that direction. It looks to improvement and healing in the future, even if it isn’t entirely attainable at the moment — and it lets you know that it’s OK to not be completely OK. “Because, I don’t want to close my eyes anymore / I want to be whole again, how the fuck do I get there?”

Front to back, the comparisons throughout the album make sense of its outward chaos and warring emotions, closing with “On Earth, as It Is in Heaven,” an epic instrumental track that is the slowest burn of them all. It builds upon itself over the course of five minutes, adding increasingly shrill guitars and crashing cymbals before slowly breathing the album’s last breath. Slow Burn is hard to listen to because it’s true to its name, but it’s as rewarding as the progress it paints.

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