Album Review: Whispering Sons – The Great Calm ([PIAS] Recordings)

by | May 8, 2024 | Album Reviews, Blog

There is a sense of shifting landscapes in The Great Calm, the latest album from the post-punk outfit Whispering Sons. Since their inception, the Belgian quintet have crafted a mélange of darkness and distance that echoes through the abandoned hallways of post-punk’s vast castle. Yet, in this, their third full-length, a discernible pivot suggests a band grappling with their past while courting the uncertain future. Amidst the release of The Great Calm, Whispering Sons will be showcasing their sound live at Control Club on Wednesday, May 22.

The band’s historical foundation—often paralleling Bauhaus and Siouxsie & The Banshees—remains evident yet evolves akin to bands like Dry Cleaning. With The Great Calm, Whispering Sons have somewhat veered away from the omnipotent darkness of Several Others (2021) and the grandeur of Image (2018).

From the onset, tracks like the somber Standstill submerge listeners in the familiar waters of introspection that the band navigates so adeptly. But here, the waters are stirred, reflecting the twisted visages of nostalgia enveloped by a fresher, brisk chill. 

Cold City follows suit, offering a strangely tender portrait of urban decay, painted with icy synths and the sorrowful strokes of Kuppens’ vocals. Here, the influence of American poet Louise Glück on Kuppens’ writing should be noted. Her prevailing themes of decay and rebirth seep into lyrics inspired by the desolation of a burnt-out car with poetic depth. 

However, The Great Calm truly distinguishes itself in its contrast between the visceral and the sublime. Walking, Flying is an anomaly within the album—a hopeful ascent from the depths of desolation. Meanwhile, the guitar-driven Dragging, replete with fierce energy and controlled chaos, reminds the band of its roots in traditional post-punk’s raw, unfettered expressions.

The Talker brings a touch of Television with its playful undercurrents and a subtle hint of country twang in one of the album’s more commercially accessible tracks. Along with Balm (After Violence) and Oceanic, they encapsulate the album’s overarching theme: a deceptive calm that belies a storm brewing beneath the surface, each note and lyric building towards an inevitable eruption.

The visceral Poor Girl best captures the Lynchian undercurrents that have always simmered beneath the surface of Whispering Sons’ music—rife with disturbing beauty. Ending on a high note, Try Me Again feels like a grand finale, both for the album and potentially for their upcoming show. Its shoegaze elements and bombastic chorus provide a compelling closure for the album’s journey from introspection to a declaration of newfound purpose.

The Great Calm isn’t just another notch on the overcrowded post-punk bedpost. It’s an atmospheric deep-dive into the shadowy corridors of Whispering Sons’ psyche, emerging enlightened and perhaps a bit haunted. The album proves that even in the deepest shadows, Whispering Sons can cast a compelling light, inviting us to see the beauty in the dark.

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