For their third studio album, the art-rock trio of brothers Palaye Royale have spared no expense and held nothing back.
Coming from Nevada, US, the band began their careers in 2008 under the name Kropp Circle. However, it wasn’t until they became Palaye Royale (2011) that they truly found themselves. In 2015, Sumerian Records announced that they were signing them, and their first studio album, The Boom Boom Room (Side A), was released the following year. They were featured in the movie American Satan, and have since spent their time creating music, and travelling the world with the likes of Marilyn Manson, and Rob Zombie. It’s no secret that their UK and Europe tour this year was a bit of a struggle. Both Manchester and Birmingham were cancelled with just a few hours’ notice, and the tour was abruptly cancelled due to the Coronavirus outbreak. However, I must admit that I am incredibly happy that they have decided to go through with the release of their album. Since it was announced on March 20th, fans across the world have been looking forward to the 29th of May.
The Bastards is a new era for Palaye Royale, a new opportunity to create a world in a way they haven’t before. In a London pop-up shop, the band revealed that they had been coming up with this concept for years, but couldn’t find anyone who would take a chance on it, and they were told that the fans wouldn’t understand what they were doing. Drummer Emerson Barrett has said that the album “takes place around the island of Obsidian, and it’s set in 1888”. The storyline then progresses to present a scenario where a free-thinking and artistic world is warped by politics and toxicity.
The album opens with “Little Bastards”, the low and tentative riff welcoming you into the world they have designed. However, the song itself is a journey where the music and vocals build into an intensely emotional experience, preparing you for what’s to come. The band’s use of layering vocals is an ingenious way of amplifying this- wrapping Remington Leith’s melodic voice with harsh screams shows the listener the two distinct parts of this album.
All 14 songs are a combination of dark anger, and deep emotions that the band hadn’t previously shown to the world. Not only are we seeing the band on a new level musically, we really get to see into the mind of each member. This is explicitly clear in the songs “Anxiety” and “Lonely”, both of which tackle the issue of mental health, but in very different ways. On the one hand, “Anxiety” feels like pure anger and frustration. It begins with two drumsticks hitting one another, before throwing you into an intro of thundering drums, with a cutthroat riff slicing through the bass. It then abruptly stops, and Leith’s distorted voice is introduced. The effects on his voice, especially when paired with a distorted riff and the almost siren-like noise that comes later, give “Anxiety” the perfect rough and aggressive edge. It is built up of so many elements, and each one just adds to the dark ambience that “Anxiety” has. The song rises and falls in intensity, often isolating certain aspects while, at the same time, tossing you into a whirlwind of emotion.
On the other hand, “Lonely” is very different. It doesn’t have the aggressive undertones we’ve previously seen. Throughout the song are staccato notes plucked on the guitar, setting the rhythm for Leith’s impassioned vocals to go with. The lyrics dive deep into Leith’s trauma and childhood- he has commented that it “is about the mental and physical abuse [he] endured as a child”. The song gently tackles with images of suicide, and depression. For many fans, this song hits home in a way they hadn’t expected it to. And the softness of the song (compared to the others) makes it stand out from the majority of the album.
The album also wrestles with a number of important issues, such as the issue of gun violence in America (“Massacre, The New American Dream”) and substance abuse as a coping mechanism. Listening to the tracks as a whole, it certainly feels like we’re peering into their minds, and getting a glimpse of who they fundamentally are, at their core.
The Bastards ends on “Redeemer” – one of the several songs not yet showcased to the public. At the beginning of the song, the listener is hit with several images. A lonely piano, almost like one you’d hear in a church, and the haunting lyrics sung by Remington Leith: “Can’t you see, that everyone is dying. The animals are crying. Religions are dividing. As my family keeps on fighting”. This punchy and short way of addressing these depressing aspects of life perfectly encapsulates the feeling of being almost overwhelmed by the atrocities of this world. And the soft, melodic song continues to grapple with suicidal themes. This song is- in my opinion- the best on the album. It is truly a masterpiece. The lyrics are enticing, and Leith’s voice slowly builds up. The orchestra-like music creates an almost overwhelmingly sad atmosphere. About two thirds of the way in, the music begins to swell, and Leith’s voice reaches an emotional breaking point. Gone is the sweet melody at the start, replaced by screams that yank on your heart and take your breath away. And, at the end, you’re left with the bittersweet sound of the pianos.
Each song is a standalone masterpiece, and there’s a real temptation to analyse each one individually. However, I won’t spoil the whole album. I must say that- as a long-time listener- it has been a privilege to see Palaye Royale grow into who they are, and this album tops anything they have ever created. Every individual track is an artistic wonder, and The Bastards is a soul-stirring tour through the minds of the brothers. They have outdone themselves. Palaye Royale just keep getting better, and I genuinely can’t wait to see what they have in store for us.
You can find Palaye Royale on YouTube, as they create a series of videos in lieu of the American tour that would’ve been taking place right now.
The Bastards is out on May 29th. Pre-order on Amazon to help support this site!