Nashville quartet Shell of a Shell may have been conceptualized as a solo project in its infancy but on their upcoming full length debut, Away Team, it is very much the work of each member, a cohesive unit working together to let their songs sprawl. After the release of Already There, the band started to congeal, with each member working out their own path for the project and coming together with a collective vision, one that has expanded on Chappy Hull’s (Pile, Gnarwhal) songwriting without upsetting the dynamic balance. For all the collaborative effort though, Away Team is a very personal record, built on internal feelings of doubt, guilt, reflection, and unshakeable depression. It’s about the moments between the extremely busy times, those seconds where your thoughts catch up with you, and the mind wanders between inescapable emotional grief and mental anguish.
Dissonant and complex, Shell of a Shell - Hull (guitar, vocals), Dylan Liverman (guitar), Noel Richards (bass), and Ian Sundstrom (drums) - use their music to pivot between overwrought feelings and the kick in the teeth needed to get up and keep going. They rip through swirling and jittery sonic bliss (“Knock”) and crushing celestial dirges (“Don’t Expect”), flexing their capabilities through polyrhythmic nuance and tangled melodic introspection. It’s not all bummed out though, Shell of a Shell work a muscular fury in to their songs, pummeling their way through shifting moods and a glimmering hope for humanity. They explore the philanthropy of Dolly Parton in the wake of a fire that ravaged Pigeon Forge, Tennessee (and the general indifference among those around them) on “My Wildfire.” They dream about the Heaven’s Gate voyage to the Hale-Bopp Comet on title track “Away Team.” As thoughts swirl around, the mix of light and dark is what saves us all from sinking too deep.
Recorded with Seth Engel (Options, Coaster, Shady Bug) at his Pallet Sound studio in Chicago, the band spent a week to create an album that is blistering with post-hardcore energy. Built on elements of noise rock and old-school emo, the band juxtapose a sensitive touch with their propulsive depths and immersive structures. There’s a duality to the album in both the songwriting itself and the ability to just let go and let things wander, as the first half of the record is short and concise, the second half is expansive but tight and focused, exploring extended timeframes to build nuance and set tone. Take the album closer “Seems Like,” an exploration of depression and sleep deprivation at its worst, when all feels wrong yet inescapable. Shell of a Shell mount tension and a general anxiousness that comes when your mind won’t shut off in the earliest of hours, the guitars and sludgy rhythm building a sinewy rush of dampened adrenaline.
Due out February 28th via Exploding In Sound Records, the band are set to tour this Spring. With their incredible full length debut, Shell of a Shell are letting us view behind the curtains; highs and lows explored with a musical dexterity that goes far beyond their years.