There’s a new Direct Hit! album on the horizon called Crown of Nothing. Check out their new song/video below! Animated by the talented Walker Dubois, “Welcome To Heaven” showcases Direct Hit’s mastery of sending the listener on a transcendental journey via melody, lyrics, instrumentation, and imagery. It’ll have you tappin’ your toe and ruminating on the afterlife all at the same time. Check out what vocalist Nick Woods said about just how deep the band went with the first new single.
“Welcome To Heaven” sets up the plot for a story this new album tells about Heaven and Hell, and the blurred line between existentialism and nihilism. There’s an angel, whose ultimate reward is vengeance on the now-demon who ended her life, and there’s the place they exist in together where she punishes him over and over again for all of eternity. Walker’s animation introduces where she finds herself after death, and the conflict it creates: How does she find meaning in infinite existence? And how does she transcend a second time?
Will Nick’s questions be answered? There’s only one way to find out… pre-order your copy of Crown of Nothing today. Act fast to get a copy of the limited LP, which comes on color vinyl, with a slipmat, and a magic trick that’ll blow your fragile mind. Of course, the fun doesn’t end there. You can bundle that with a four-issue subscription to an illustrated zine/comic based on the album. But wait, there’s more. Each 24-page issue comes with an alternative version of a song from the album! Phew! Don’t say we never did anything for you.
If you’re surprised that Direct Hit Is dropping their second full-length in three years (with a killer split LP wedged in between), you might not be alone: The Milwaukee quartet’s third album, Crown Of Nothing, was largely constructed in the shadows, with little information of its creation being shared with the public. Frontman Nick Woods has a reason for that. “I feel like artists these days talk too much—myself included,” Woods remarks. “No one’s short on ideas, but very few put the work in to actually execute. So it was a deliberate choice to produce something and let the music do the talking this time around, instead of our collective ego.” The music of which Woods is referencing is his band’s new, 14-track collection Crown Of Nothing, which is Direct Hit’s most challenging, elaborate and downright catchy work to date—and it’s built around the idea that heaven and hell might very well be the same place.
“Crown Of Nothing describes the relationship between a vengeful angel, put to death by a demon she then torments in the afterlife for eternity,” Woods begins. “Day after day, for an unknowable amount of time, he wakes up, meets her again, and is systematically tortured and dismembered before being stitched up by a ‘heavenly’ host of characters and made to endure the same treatment upon revival. He deserves the punishment, and she deserves her vengeance if heaven is indeed a place where righteous existence and tragic death is met with divine reward. But she eventually finds herself asking how meaningful that reward is in the face of infinite time—and that existential crisis eventually gives the demon the upper hand. Crown Of Nothing is about how the angel finds meaning in the afterlife beyond her vengeance, comes to terms with anger, and ascends beyond our human perception of death.”
Phew! punk rock’s come a long way since “Amoebaaaaaaa, amoebaaaaaaaa” hasn’t it? But just because the album’s concept is that deep and heavy doesn’t mean the music surrounding it is any less than top notch. Crown Of Nothingcontinues Direct Hit’s unique strain of “fuck you, get pumped” party punk they’ve been honing throughout their decade-long career. Album opener “Different Universe” has a killer new-wave vibe; “Pain/Boredom” is a guaranteed circle pit starter that evokes labelmates Pears; “Bad Answer” is loaded with fuzz bass, a disco beat and a sax solo that would make the Big Man smile from beyond the grave; “Disassemble” is so catchy, it could be something John Feldmann would write for Goldfinger and then sell to Blink-182. (There’s also a flute on the track.) Direct Hit pinballs from style to style over Crown Of Nothing’s 44-minute runtime, but it never feels schizophrenic—more accurately, it feels like the best mix CD ever. There’s a reason why no two Direct Hit songs ever sound quite the same, too.
“We all have very severe cases of musical attention deficit disorder,” Woods explains. “We don’t get bored of certain sounds—we revisit different records we all like, all the time—but it becomes easier to pick out what we don’t like about something when we hear it repeated ad nauseum. We’d all rather continue to enjoy what we enjoy rather than spoil it for ourselves. It’s tough enough that Direct Hit consumes so much of our time, as joyful of an experience as this band has been; we’d hate to ruin it and make it unfun if we felt obligated to write the same shit over and over and over again.”
The band returned to producer Mike Kennerty (Masked Intruder, Screeching Weasel), who’s captured just about every note Direct Hit has played in the past five years. That doesn’t mean the band was complacent in the studio, though. “Mike has done a really good job of teaching us how making different-sounding music doesn’t come from putting the first idea you have down on tape,” Woods says. “We tried to take that ethos to an extreme this time around. We deliberately worked in a way that made us uncomfortable, by giving up control of the process earlier on and not working toward a light at the end of a tunnel. It was a much more harrowing process than we thought it’d be. I can’t speak for the other guys in my band, but I learned a lot about how to deal with self-doubt, discovery, acceptance, and identity by working on this record. I don’t know if other people are really going to think it’s any good, but I’m confident in saying that it’s at least different—and interesting.”
Final question, Nick: Is it sheer coincidence that an album about the problems of religion has a title that can be conveniently shortened to CON? “Sheer coincidence,” he admits. “I’m the product of 12 years of Catholic schools, and I have no clue whether God exists. I’m not an anti-religious person, though. You do what you gotta do to fall asleep at night—I don’t begrudge anyone that comfort. But don’t take yourself too seriously, because you don’t know the answer, not to anything truly important.”