In these surreal times, Chicago-based trio Deeper’s super-charged sophomore album, Auto-Pain, is the catalyst for humanity to race out of the darkness and assume control over its fate.

In a time where the surreal has become normalized and the world is paralyzed, a goth-post-punk band out of Chicago arrives and encourages us to take a step forward. Correction: Deeper‘s super-charged sophomore album, Auto-Pain, is the catalyst for us to race forward. Although goth-rock and post-punk are often equated with brooding darkness, Nic Gohl (vocals/guitar), Drew McBride (bass), and Shiraz Bhatti (drums) guide us through the bleakness and guide us towards the light through the record’s twelve songs.

Auto-Pain is a concept album made for escaping the pending apocalypse. It commences with the buzzing head-jerker, “Esoteric Life”. With McBride’s outstanding bass line leading the way, Gohl, whose voice closely resembles The Cure’s Robert Smith, assumes the personality of a loner. He’s stranded alone on an island where he believes no one can comprehend his thoughts, struggles, and pressures. “Is it any wonder I feel so old?” he shouts to no one. The equally energetic “Run” is the person across the street – or maybe his subconscious – screaming back. He tells Gohl, “Yes, you should run. The Devil’s on fire, so fucking run.”

This race takes us through the underground punk-rock clubs of Manchester and Leeds in the ’70s. Inside awaits “This Heat.” Although the music is upbeat and exhilarating, Gohl continues to push us to “crossing a line” from a sickness or demon after us. Through the ordeal, he offers words of encouragement to those battling depression. “Come back to me”, he beckons near the end, as if he’s extending his hand to help us out of the bleak abyss.

But before he leads us out of the hole, Gohl tells us our predicament is a creation of our own ignorance on the swaggering, The Rolling Stones-esque “Willing.” He repeats, “It’s a willingness to ignore,”, words that are even more relevant today. Also difficult to ignore is the album’s centerpiece, “Lake Song.” The foreboding bass line; the harrowing but chiming guitar; the moaning synths; and guttural rhythms form a soundscape that The Cure and Depeche Mode would have imagined many decades ago. Through the gloomy darkness, Gohl immediately expresses his concern for our well-being:

“What’s the point of living this life?
‘Cause you’re sheltered in the walls that are caving in
Yeah, what’s the point of breathing on chance?
Because it feels good, as you let your body in”

Desperation consumes the brilliantly orchestrated “Spray Paint”, on which Gohl abruptly calls us “a runaway.” We’re trying to escape the past and our demons that will never disappear. The slow growl of “4U” wavers from melancholic to manic, and its approach mimics Gohl’s desperate pleas for us to stop, listen, and understand. On the disco-punk “V.M.C.”, which sounds like a cross between Preoccupations and Wolf Parade, resistance is the focus. In defiance of the orders he’s been given, Gohl repeats, “I don’t need it! I don’t need it!”

Everything comes full circle on the penultimate track, “The Knife.” At this point, we’ve finally “crossed the line” and temporarily “it feels good.” A moment of exhilaration is experienced until reality returns. The boiling point has yet to be reached, and Gohl wonders if “violence could be the cure” to what ails us. This question weighs heavily on his mind on the stark “Warm.” He asks our oppressors, “Is this the cure that you believe in?” The answer is never given, leaving us to ponder what awaits. The one thing to take from Auto-Pain is that we still can control our fate. We can still run and find our way out of the darkness, out of the fire, and start anew.

Auto-Pain is out now on Fire Talk Records and can be purchased on Bandcamp.

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