Before I give you the skinny about this album, I thought I would just offer a really helpful PSA: you don’t just listen to a Lana Del Rabies album. If you have listened to her music and read the synopsis around it, you would know that the music is not for feeling bouncy. It is not made to be anyone’s album of the year to make you happy and round. Her albums are an exorcism, a roar, an album long warning shot waiting to happen.
When I heard In the End I Am a Beast, it felt like a woman scorned, scarred, broken and just another scar away from completely snapping. The album confronts toxic masculinity with a face and a powerful voice that would instantly disarm the most smug of abusers, and always felt on the verge of going more unhinged than she will allow. Rather, the album felt like a thousand voices of women who were silenced, dismembered, insulted and discredited for their femininity speaking, singing, shouting through one woman. Before I even heard Shadow World, I got the impression (through the album cover) that the album would be a much more painful delve into her personal Hell. And so it was.
“Submerge” opens with merged collections of screams and shouts over stuttering synths. Depending on the ear listening, it could be shouts and news coverages of every woman that suffered at the hands of others or it could be an artistic vision of going deep into hell. All I know is after that, it is like she channelled the hellish pain into an album that continues to snarl.
One of the reoccurring lyrical motifs on the first half is the constant worry about her “grace”. Not giving away completely if the malicious demand for grace is through an abuser she personally knew, her demons or an echo of the media or, rather, the patriarchal side of the media’s word upon women, but it feels obvious that her very hymns are one of freedom or overall purging of a woman’s waning self-esteem. But a lot like the debut EP of her labelmate Ka5sh, such snarling accusations and expectations of the patriarchy can easily be turned upon its head, and she could be asking where the grace of men has actually gone. By repeating the threatening words of either her partners or those who seek to approach being partners a lot like being vampires or leeches, she puts a whole different kind of power to them and makes them sound threatening towards her detractors.
All over the album, if the drums don’t quite stomp with a vengence, smoky synths surrounds the place. The only track that offers a bit of reprieve is “Ghost”, and even at its chill(i)est, it is still not interested in letting up. “Reign” begins and continues with dizzying oscillations of grinding synths. As far as the vocals, the clearest words that come in the form of the glassy strut “Vicious End” where she loudly shouts “you will not get away” over snappy percussion and buzzing synth pads.
In the fashion usually reserved, yes, for shoegaze, her vocals are hidden in the haze of it all. You won’t know what it is that she is really trying to exorcise in this moment. Not a single idea of how many demons she is exorcising away through all of this. You just feel the pain of hitting the bottom, and the slight joy of discovering something below.
While I am personally a bigger fan of knowing ones message, Lana Del Rabies having vocals be hidden does come with a purpose. You know how I just described her music as the darkest form of shoegaze in my last review? Well, honestly, even that wouldn’t quite tackle it. Shoegaze usually masks the vocals for your most lovelorn and fragile secrets to coast upon like surfing a massive wave in the sunlight. Surely, LDR has absolutely nothing to hide, but yet again, who would have been ready, or even brave enough, to hear her?