There’s a scene in the later half of season three of Netflix’s pitch-black comedy Dead To Me (the soapy-yet-silly series about the unlikely friendship borne between two women who accidentally kill each other’s dirtbag husbands) that perfectly encapsulates two of the series’ most important characters: Christina Applegate’s Jen Harding and Jams Mardsen’s Ben Wood. The pair’s will-they-won’t-they has been complicated by grief: The loss of Jen’s husband opens season one, while season three’s plot swirls around the discovery of the corpse of Ben’s long-missing twin, who, uh, Jen killed in a heated altercation (unbeknownst to loveable lunk Ben). “How do you cope with the pain?” a wet-eyed Ben asks tough-gal Jen, who is wracked with guilt. She shows him her secret coping strategy as they sit in her SUV, turning on the stereo system.
The gag here is that you’re set up to expect blonde, suburban Jen to have a playlist of lovelorn songs at the ready, but instead she’s blasting metal music, explaining to Ben that screaming along to the curse-laden, abrasive sounds helped her process her rage at her husband’s unexpected death. I dare you not to cackle as Ben shares he’s more of a Patsy Cline kinda guy.
The only thing that could’ve made the scene any better would have been if Jen’s playlist included Halifax metalcore outfit Pale Ache—specifically, the band’s 2022 offering, Mourning as a Metaphor. The LP opens with squalls of feedback before guttural, shouted lyrics share “all I am died today/all I am died with you.” It’s beyond being dropped in the deep end. Rather, the band is dunking you into the depths of the abyss.
But you don’t have to have an ear for hardcore to quickly find yourself carried by the current: Mourning manages to deliver the dramatic and the distorted in a way that makes a notoriously opaque genre suddenly permeable, based off its knack for melody in a type of music dismissed as not having any.
Snarling, emotionally cognizant lyrics and pummelling percussion are the floor of an album that grabs you into an undertow at split-second speed. Pale Ache’s sense of the audience’s load-bearing ability is part of what makes the album such a standout, though: An innate instinct of when to switch tempo, when to break the heaviness, and when to double down on it, keeps listeners’ stamina high and ears hooked.
By the album’s midpoint, the standout “I Saw Life”, your own inner Jen will be rollicking in a thunderstorm of big feelings—all while Pale Ache grows a sense of atmospheric dread via a slowly building backing that reaches its dizzying apex as lyrics scream: “mourning as a metaphor/echoing throughout these vacant halls/wondering if you'd be proud to see the ways we've grown/but I guess I'll never know.”