A depraved drumbeat collides with a slinking, dirty bassline before giving way to a soft lead vocal in In the Next Life’s “Ashes and Dust,” one of the key tracks on their new EP 4FriendsInARoomWithAGun, but for as forceful as the amalgamation of tones and textures is in the first few minutes of this labored metallic ballad, nothing feels particularly over the top or indulgent on the part of the band. In 4FriendsInARoomWithAGun, In the Next Life reestablish a post-grunge variety of heavy music that skips over the pop-saturated chapter of alternative rock history in favor of continuing a story once started by groups like Green River, the Melvins and U-Men over three decades ago.
“Living in the Moment” is probably the most calculated track on this EP, but it doesn’t overwhelm us with a lot of unnecessary fluff. Built on the back of a consistent, slow-swinging beat, this song chugs along to a pendulous rhythm only to break apart into a Sabbath-style instrumental midway through the track. At over seven minutes in total running time, it’s the biggest beast here, but it’s also one of the more conservatively appointed in terms of aesthetical frills.
“Hope Dies” is available to us in two distinct versions on 4FriendsInARoomWithAGun, and both are equally intriguing in their own ways. In the distorted record-closer, vocals are less the communicative focus, and in their place we find one of the more compelling instrumental harmonies of any in this tracklist. There’s a lot of emotion coming from all fronts in “Hope Dies,” but in its standard, electric form, I think that we’re able to appreciate just how much sonic depth In the Next Life have when they’re working off of each other’s strengths (which, to be fair, seems to happen whenever they enter the studio together).
The acoustic version of “Hope Dies” is almost exclusively powered by the serenade that pins all of its varying grooves together. The beat is implied here, with the cadence of the verses supporting the swing that was once produced by the percussion, and though the mix is unvarnished, it doesn’t sound amateurish or lacking in professional quality at all. Everything on 4FriendsInARoomWithAGun has a certain edge to it that you just can’t find on the Top 40 anymore, but never does In the Next Life make the crude decision to sacrifice any of their tonality in exchange for some redundantly grimy production style.
It might be the shortest song on the record, but “Manica Satanica” undeniably sets the tone for all of the music that follows its pummeling riffs. In my first sit-down with 4FriendsInARoomWithAGun, this is the track that immediately got me interested in what In the Next Life had to play, and it’s definitely one of the better-chosen record starters that I’ve come across in the rock genre as of late. This is a group that serious heavy music fans need to be keeping tabs on, and I would tell any of them who haven’t already got a taste of this EP to give it a spin when looking for hot new alternative rock this month.