It’s worth reiterating sometimes that criticism doesn’t automatically equate to hate. It shouldn’t have to be said at this point, but the amount that the two become conflated renders it an unavoidable discussion point. Even if the artist lays themselves bare in their art, any critique of that art is not an indictment on the artist personally, rather a subjective view on how well it comes across to an outside observer.
With Casey though, they’ve tended to manage avoiding too much negative feedback to their brand of hyper-emotional post-hardcore, primarily through vocalist Tom Weaver’s impassioned delivery indicative of genuine, raw pain being put to record. Even though their 2016 debut Love Is Not Enough might not have differed too much from other melodic hardcore at the time – particularly in the wake of Touché Amoré’s Stage Four – subsequent revisits have only elevated Casey’s breathless recounts of a breakup to a much more potent status, to the point where there’s now an intrinsic trust that the Welsh quintet will always deliver on an emotional and spiritual level. And from concept alone, Where I Go When I Am Sleeping looks to do just that, this time seeing Weaver open up about both the physical and mental illnesses that have plagued Weaver for most of his life, being diagnosed with brittle bones from birth, and ulcerative colitis and manic depression in later life.
And yet, for anyone expecting this to inspire another round of searing, explosive pain, Where I Go… is slightly different. Obviously the catharsis is here in full force, but it’s a far more reserved listen than its predecessor, with tones akin to contemplative post-rock in greater equilibrium to the emotional hardcore ones. And initially, this might be hard to take in – upon first listen, it immediately feels a lot less involved than Love Is Not Enough was – but the magic of Casey comes in their ability to unfurl their greatness over time, and Where I Go… is another example of that. In tracks like Making Weight and Needlework, there’s such a sense of poignancy and vulnerability in Weaver’s cracking vocals to mirror his own frailties he opens up about, really hitting its peak upon a deeper analysis that shows pain and helplessness that’s very real, emerging from the gauntlet in the spoken-word coda of Wound, in which he comes to terms with his own failings with an air of positivity about moving forward. A track like Wavering proves itself necessary in this context as the reddened, more brusque eruption of emotion, but Where I’m Going… is overall more restrained and resigned, the result of pain rather than the response.
Thus, it makes sense that Casey’s instrumental pallet also reflects that, crafted from shimmering, melodic guitars caked in reverb, and post-rock and shoegaze tones to complement the deadened recollections of a man in constant pain. It’s a rare instance where the interludes and instrumental tracks actually add to the overall atmosphere rather than break it up, with & connecting the brutally honest pair of Phosphenes and Fluorescents, and the ethereal qualities of Morphine only adds to the heavy mood and atmosphere. Even in a track like The Funeral which builds from dark yet serene guitars and atmospherics to a more explosive hardcore high-point, the transitions are natural and silk-smooth, never succumbing to jerky fusions that so many other hardcore bands fail to get right.
But what Where I Go… is more than anything else, is a summation of Casey’s efforts so far, and the most definitive proof yet that this is a band who could do something truly special in the coming years. They’re already improving by huge standards, and with a realistic, open portrayal of pain without sounding mawkish or overblown, that’s a good trait to have in a market where bands are unable to muster up the potential for that. Even if Casey are yet to hit their uppermost echelon just yet, they’re in spitting distance now at the very least. Casey might have had the “ones to watch” label over them for some time, but all of that praise and buildup is finally coming to fruition in spectacular fashion.
For fans of: Touché Amoré, Landscapes, Being As An Ocean
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Where I Go When I Am Sleeping’ by Casey is released on 16th March on Hassle Records.