The renowned “curse of the second album” is a notion that hasn’t lost an iota of infamy over the years, and very much remains as a staple of the scrutiny an artist faces after a notable debut attempt. Predictably, this is a scenario that was immediately bestowed upon Welsh hardcore outfit Casey, following their impressive inaugural effort Love Is Not Enough, back in 2016. The particular modus operandi employed by the band was undoubtedly at the forefront of this; they turned heads and raised eyebrows everywhere with the fusing of a traditional hardcore approach with bardic, emotive narratives portrayed in the vocal content, in addition to a sprinkling of post-rock elements. Two years later, following the establishment of a substantial fan-base, Casey are ready for round two as they build up to the unhanding of sophomore attempt Where I Go When I Am Sleeping, and as we’ve just established, all eyes are very much fixed on the quintet as they do so.
Ideally, a budding outfit’s second attempt needs to conform to a certain quota. It needs to avoid underwhelming, but simultaneously avoid overwhelming. It needs to see enough similarities to the prior effort without being a carbon copy, and most importantly it needs to represent somewhat of a natural progression in the artist’s sound. In this instance, Casey set out as if they’re ready to knock all of this out of the park. Fervently demonstrating this is opening track “Making Weight”, a three-minute affair comprised of a solemn, clean-vocal monologue, taking on Casey‘s familiar emotive approach once again. Acting very much as a prelude to the album, this song bleeds into second track “Wavering”, and as a result the listener is reacquainted with some of the band’s more energetic, hardcore-Esq. traits.
As expected, this approach appears sporadically throughout the record, and for Casey, this is meat-and-drink. More notable, however, is the irrefutable melodic post-rock influence that seems to shadow nearly every section, and through tracks such as “Needlework”, “Phosphenes”, and title track “Where I Go When I Am Sleeping”, the demonstration of this is particularly apt. This is without a doubt the key component that renders Casey a special outfit; we saw it on their prior effort, but this time it’s been refined and solidified as a staple of the sound, and frankly, it works wonders to supplement the bleak, emotive lyrical tropes. Yes, the hardcore spine certainly remains, however this post-rock influence comes across as truly dominant overall.
What is most pleasing about this record is that it feels like a patient, natural progression. There’s nothing groundbreaking going on, but this is arguably a positive thing for fans of the band. Having covered so much ground through their first release, Casey needed to play it ‘safe’ to an extent, and they’ve executed it brilliantly. The sound has been refined considerably, the album structure feels more expansive, and as a result it comes across as confident, and much more mature. Elements such as production play a vital role here: Where I Go When I Am Sleeping boasts a much cleaner, ironed-out mix, allowing the songs to flourish, but treading carefully and not diminishing the essential, raw effect. In addition, the vocal content seems to have become much more tasteful overall, with the use of clean-singing making up at least half of the vocal content, ultimately avoiding the wearing effect of hardcore vocals, and enabling the storytelling to become much more effective. Through both of these things, and taking into account the ultra-ambient, post-rock approach, Casey seem to have successfully removed their hardcore label, and have almost become their own entity entirely. This is arguably the greatest achievement of the record.
Conceivably, there are some downsides to discuss. Despite the bleak, emotive themes seemingly being a Casey staple, it can come across as a little forced from time-to-time. From top to bottom, this record explores similar themes to Love Is Not Enough, namely the making and breaking of romantic relationships, and to a certain ear, this could easily come across as wearing and samey. Furthermore, the record as a whole seems as if it doesn’t quite do enough to progress; essentially, it is more of the same. This certainly isn’t detrimental; as I mentioned before, the jump has felt natural and comfortable, but it has simultaneously been slight, and this may disappoint certain listeners. Finally, depending on how predisposed you are to this brand of music, you may feel that there are glimpses of needless filler sprinkled throughout. As aforementioned, this band’s formula hasn’t changed a whole lot, yet the structure of the album is much more drawn-out, and thus may not convey as concisely as it perhaps should.
All thing being equal, this is a strong release from Casey. As we explored at the beginning, it’s never a simple task to release a follow-up to a considerably acclaimed debut, and this outfit seem to have passed the test. Broadly speaking, we’ve been given healthy installments of everything that caught our eye on the debut, and in addition this has been considerably refined and matured. From a certain perspective, there’s nothing particularly new or cutting-edge going on, but on the whole it remains as a solid attempt with a palpable, passionate atmosphere throughout. This being just the second attempt from this band, it only remains to be said that the scene should expect great things from Casey in the years to come.
Notable tracks: “Needlework”; “Phosphates”, “Where I Go When I Am Sleeping”.
FFO: Pianos Become The Teeth, Being As An Ocean, Polar.