This review started off covering the latest Cattle Decapitation album, Death Atlas. I’m sure there are plenty of merits to that album, but beyond a connection with the eco-conscious subject matter, I could not find my way into that record. However, it also brought to my attention another record focused through the lens of climate change, a record about which I’d been saying “I should give that a listen” for months—the self-titled LP by Midwest screamo outfit Snag. And upon first listen, I knew immediately that I needed to cover this record instead.
From the opening hum of feedback, Snag smacks you in the face with aggression and vitality. The album’s sound is still-bleeding raw, preserving the vicious energy with which this band plays their songs. The vocals hiss with harmonic overload and guitars scream with high-gain grit, reminding me of At the Drive-In’s seminal Relationship of Command. This record feels very much like a live set—you can hear the guitarist stomp their pedals on and off, ground loops inhabit the spaces between songs, and the band’s vicious energy occasionally overrides both consonance and tempo.
Snag have unquestionably captured their essence on this record, one that can summed up in two succinct phrases: painfully sincere, and royally pissed. The drumming is frantic, shoving careening rolls and fills between blasts and grooves that undoubtedly leave the drumheads bruised. The bass tone is thick, chonky even, like the howl of a dire wolf. The guitar steers the tunes between darkness and light, spacing out the heavy sections with pretty picking and melodic sprawls.
This wild dynamic movement is echoed in the vocals as well. The repeating opening line of “Colony Collapse” starts in a sarcastic spoken tone that slowly ramps up in exasperation with each repetition. By the final time, the singer is at a full guttural screech, wretching the words as if it pains to speak them. In a similar fashion, the closing track “Waiting (We’ll Starve)” layers speak-singing over grainy screams, before closing with a pile of heady gang vocals.
The sound of Snag is undeniably intense, furious even, but this is no hype for hype’s sake—this record carries in its lyrics a very heavy message. Snag’s writing is focused almost solely through a voice of “climate anxiety,” directly addressing some of the looming ecological issues facing our world. “Foam Cup pt. II” paints a vivid image of a trash-soaked highway, poignantly reinforcing the urgency by choosing a material that will never biodegrade. Bleak lines like “The more I learn, the more I believe / the earth is a corpse, lad at our feet” from “Colony Collapse” remind us that for every choice we make for lesser beings echoes onto us as well, often for the worse.
The powerfully simple statement of “if you see me, weep” in “Hunger Stone,” a reference to the river stones historically used in parts of Europe to mark times of famine, suggests that such disaster is on our own horizon. But perhaps the best example of this thematic exploration is the most subtle: the line “I hear you crying on the fire escape” feels straight up terrifying when read with a climate change lens, implying that there is no escape from the heat death we seem to be barreling towards.
No matter which angle I choose as my approach, I cannot deny just how heartfelt and smart this record is. Snag use lively instrumentation, intelligent and thoughtful writing, and a whole lotta rage to both educate and entertain. A tone of urgency runs through each of Snag’s nine tracks, delivering an important message without interrupting the enjoyment that is inherent in their music. This is one of those records that occupies the brain, using catchy hooks to climb through the ears before seeping stark and effective images in between the lobes. And though I cannot say this record will resonate so deeply with every listener, there is one thing of which I can assure you—the very next purchase I make will be my own vinyl copy, because I’m going to spin this record until it’s too worn to play.
My Top Track: “Fire Escape”
You can stream Snag via Bandcamp or Spotify; grab a physical copy from Middle Man Records (US), Zegema Beach Records (CAN), or Daesin Records (Europe). For all things Snag including upcoming shows and news, follow them on Facebook.