When a band returns with their first LP in a decade, the expectations are high. The Casket Lottery's Real Fear -- out today via No Sleep Records -- is their first all-new full-length since 2002's Survival Is For Cowards. It'd been teased earlier this year, when "The Door" was released as a 7-inch in August.
That single showed many of the familiar Casket Lottery tropes: the quiet-loud-quiet-screaming-breakdown dynamic that served them well over their career, but also teased at electronic flourishes and a wider sonic range than their last LP. One can't help but think back to a few years ago, when the Casket Lottery's Kansas City brethren the Get Up Kids released their Simple Science EP as a precursor to There Are Rules, which was their first full-length in almost seven years.
That group's "Keith Case" was a departure far afield from where we'd last heard the group, which may account for the fact that reissues of the Get Up Kids' earlier efforts on Doghouse seemed to sell better than There Are Rules, which sounded as if the band had been listening to an awful lot of New Order and Flock of Seagulls.
On Real Fear, the band's not so much taking a giant leap ahead as they're taking a big step. "The Door" is easily recognizable as the Casket Lottery, as is "In the Branches," the album's first proper track after the "Blood on the Handle" intro. It's tracks like "The Moon and The Tide" -- which features '80s horror synths and processed vocals -- that really make you see that the band is not the same group of individuals you loved in high school.
And they shouldn't be -- if you want an album that sounds like what you used to listen to, go listen to that. Alternately, take a listen to the album all the way through, and appreciate the fact that the Casket Lottery has changed things up gradually. The group's easing you into what they're doing, as opposed to either mining the past for old glories or simply deciding on a new course, damn the torpedoes.
By the time you reach "Baptistina," which features a basic train-song drumbeat and progressive series of bass chords, you've come to expect the keyboards and quieter vocals, so the explosion into the old-school Casket Lottery's sound, all screamed vocals and riffs, what was once expected in now surprising, and you understand what they've done. Now, expectations inverted, flipped, and rearranged ... what do they do next?
It's available on a myriad number of vinyl colors from the No Sleep store for $12 -- 300 light blue transparent, 500 light tan opaque, and 500 on 180-gram black.