Mise-en-Scène or From Emo to Screamo and Back Again. With ambient, folk, hardcore, and post-rock sojourns along the way.

Release date: March 25, 2024 | Zegema Beach Records | Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram

Burial Etiquette are a non-binary screamo/emo, post-hardcore band from Thunder Bay, Ontario. I’ve described the magic of their unique sound as a ‘blend of heartfelt almost indie folk ballads with the intense raw anguish of screamo‘ featuring ‘dual overlapping harmonies mixing clean and harsh vocals.’ For a more in depth look at the band be sure to check out our recent WFA with Burial Etiquette.

Burial Etiquette have finally released their much anticipated debut full length album and I am happy to report it is well worth the wait. Mise-en-Scène expands upon the ideas they’ve explored on numerous singles, splits, and EP’s while simultaneously concentrating their focus to a single unified vision. Even the album’s title itself is revealing of this as a mise-en-scène in film is all of the elements that comprise a single shot. Burial Etiquette really brought their A game for this debut. From instrumentation, to production, and vocal performances they are firing on all cylinders. I swear at points they must have like five vocalists to handle all the styles, harmonies, and change ups.

“Mirrors for Eyes”, which was included on Zegema Beach’s Zampler #22 from the end of last year, encapsulates the very heart and soul of this record. For me the song’s title initially recalled the horror of Red Dragon, when the killer put mirrors in the eyes of corpses and the creepy dolls from that scene. The mirrors gave a lifelike reflection of light to the lifeless eyes of the victims of dark deeds. Given the full context of this album’s themes the title “Mirror for Eyes” becomes even more apropos. Raising questions of agency and playing the part: ‘Can we stitch and sew our roles convincingly / Or break character’. Examining free will and determinism: ‘Pull the strings make me move / Cut the strings let me fall’. These lines strike at the core of this records deep existential angst and philosophical pondering. All of these elements are returned to again and again throughout Mise-en-Scène.

The album’s cover is yet another window into the larger story unfolding over the course of the record. The typed words befit the poetic confessional nature of Burial Etiquette. Some of the words are plainly read and some obscured, mirroring the band’s dual clean/harsh vocal styles. But the meat of the cover is in the puppet like figures at the fore and the hands governing over them.

From Punch & Judy, Pinocchio, The Muppets, to Sesame Street, puppets have a long rich history in the English dramatic tradition. Beyond simple storytelling puppets serve as metaphor for man as the puppet pulled by external forces. Looking again at the album cover we see that the strings are invisible. Often the forces that pull us and the ropes that bind cannot be seen. Furthermore puppets speak to identity and reality. Is our sense of self an internal expression or shaped by the outside world?

Throughout their catalog, but especially on Mise-en-Scène, Burial Etiquette explores all of the thematic elements beautifully displayed on the cover. Identity, power dynamics, pain, hope. Who has a voice, how that voice is used, and who hears it. All of these questions and dynamics can be seen here through the lens of a puppet’s eye.

“Blue Orchids” is the shortest song on the album and it is also my favorite. Stripped down and laid bare this track is heartbreaking and angelic in equal measure. ‘Wait for the final snap / As you drift further from my grasp / Buildings shake with every breath / Grounds reform into new continents’. The song is so sonically distinct from the rest of the album it could have easily been discarded, but I’m really glad it wasn’t. Its inclusion here at the approximate midpoint acts as a kind of palette cleanser or turning point. It’s also a soft moment for reflection amid all the tension and chaos found elsewhere on the record. We can sit amongst “Blue Orchids” for a moment and just breathe.

“Cracked Lens” is like a distorted mirror refraction of the somber tranquility of “Blue Orchids”. This furious track has a pummeling almost metal or hardcore drumbeat and the song’s pacing is furious and unrelenting. The juxtaposition of these songs specifically points to the duality of the album in general. Harshness containing moments of grace and quiet introspection made devastatingly powerful with anguish.

If “Mirrors for Eyes” is representative of the album as a whole, then the final track is emblematic of the band themselves. “Crestfallen” has a building intensity contrasting with grim undertones until the wave finally breaks into a stark silence after which follows the hidden track “Valor”. Every aspect of what makes up Burial Etiquette is vibrantly on display here in this epic finale. “Valor” has an outro feel with hazy guitar lines meandering like a radio switching between distant stations as whispered voices fade in and out. The closing act is a sort of yin-yang. While “Crestfallen” represents darkness and “Valor” light each contain elements of the other.  “Crestfallen” has some of the heaviest moments anywhere on the record met with some of the tenderest whispers. “Valor” for all of its fuzzy out of focus tone has a melancholic bite to it. The last song concludes the album bitter in its sweetness with a dull throbbing ache that is somehow hopeful in its sadness.

Funerals are for the living. We carry on burdened by the pain of mourning, but the burden is eased when shared through sympathetic rites. With their debut full length Burial Etiquette have successfully translated the passion evident from a collection of disparate songs into a cohesive long form journey. Mise-en-Scène is a mosaic of jagged edges carefully fit together dulling their roughness into a refined work of art.

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