Salt Money - Love of my life (Album Review)

In the days of the Roman Empire, salt was a much sought-after luxury. The now-ubiquitous seasoning was once so valuable that "salt money" was the name given to soldiers' pay, a term which eventually evolved into the modern-day word "salary". In our current epoch, Salt Money are a Brisbane-based hardcore punk outfit whose first long-form offering, "Love of my life", is undoubtedly worth its weight in the aforementioned alkali. The five-piece group deal in viscerally intense, high-octane screamo. With a sound reminiscent of late '90s and early '00s acts like At The Drive-In and The Blood Brothers, their pent-up, youthful energy is cleverly harnessed by more mature math rock sensibilities. 

On the album opener, "Shared Anxieties", face-melting vocals merge with frenzied outbursts of brightly distorted guitars and drums so tight you can set your watch to them. Eventually, the song self-implodes, landing on the statement "everything repeats". While only 3 of the twelve songs here pass the 2-minute mark, the pressure-cooker energy imbued in the densely frenetic arrangements means any more length would've rendered the album exhausting beyond enjoyment. Yet, it's not all one-note. "Time Flies" sneaks some hooky emo vocal harmonies behind vocalist Dean Strike's impassioned pleas, and "Overplayed" plays with time signatures to great effect.

And while a sense of horror permeates this darkly emotional album, there's an underlying hope to be found, most notably on the album highlights "Gethsemane" and "Restless Ghost", which rollercoaster from discordant brutalism to subtle quietisms while lamenting on the will necessary for change. ("Will I deny or bear the weight of this world / And of the chance at being something else"). "Cinema", perhaps the most technically accomplished track here, highlights Salt Money's talent for dynamics. The group alternate between aggression and meekness, caterwauls and spoken word, and ugliness and beauty, done and dusted in just over a minute.

The liner notes inform us that the record was recorded at locations which remain "stolen Turrbal & Yaggera land", an admirable footnote to an album whose cryptic lyrics are too vague to be considered overtly political yet too ironic not to be. As trimmed to perfection as they are, the songs often feel like a proclamation of candid expression, the messages alluding to anti-establishment themes without resorting to the explicit ("Only wanna wear shit made in Italy"). The closing track, "The Opening", is a musically rich take on post-hardcore, splicing its French-language spoken word sample with an uplifting major chord progression. Moreover, it brings the album full circle by cleverly echoing the line "everything repeats" from the first track, evidencing a thoughtfully thematic approach. 

Succinct but not scant, there isn't a redundant second on "Love of my life". The twenty minutes whizz by in a frenzy of vehemence, offering those who dare to listen an energizing catalyst for emotional release.