By Steve B.
July 6, 2021
ROAR’s new album Diamond Destroyer of Death deserves our attention. The brainchild of Owen Evans of Phoenix, Arizona, ROAR songs are meticulously crafted gems of morose sunshine pop. You may already be familiar with Owen’s work—ROAR’s song “I Can’t Handle Change” had some measure of popularity on Tik Tok, and Owen is the drummer for punk band AJJ (formerly called Andrew Jackson Jihad).
ROAR’s song structures have always been hard to pin down, and Diamond Destroyer takes that elusiveness to the next level. The songs have cohesive melodies, progressions, and hooks, but there are no verses or choruses in sight. The same can be said of many later Beatles songs, and this description of “Happiness is a Warm Gun” seems equally applicable to Diamond Destroyer: “Cohesion within each structural section is achieved through immediate repetition of a particular motif or chord progression. The overall structure of the song, then, has less to do with motivic cohesion than it does with intensity and density ….” Continuing the Beatles comparison, if you attempt to map the song “A Day In The Life” into a “framework of an accepted structure, it comes out to be ‘verse/verse/verse/bridge/middle section/middle bridge/verse/bridge’ (or AAABCDAB) with a short intro and startling conclusion.” It’s clear that these Beatles songs, and now Diamond Destroyer, were just not written with the standard song structures in mind. A better way to approach Diamond Destroyer is as a collection of motifs or concepts that are developed, reimagined, and shifted into different contexts as they evolve and crescendo.
While “A Day in The Life” and “Happiness is a Warm Gun” are each a self-contained exploration, Diamond Destroyer takes that approach and expands it to the album as a whole. Individual tracks are composed of one or more phrases or melodies that are repeated within the song and then on occasion reappear in later songs. For instance, the phrase “I’m not going to help you” is introduced at the end of the song “Paralyzed,” but then gets its own dedicated song “I’m Not Going to Help You” later in the album. The phrase “nothing’s nothing too” is repeated at the end of the songs “Copperfield” and “The Vulture and the Void.” The album ends with the phrase “lonely paralyzed by fear…,” which was introduced in the second song “Paralyzed,” followed by the cautiously triumphant repeated phrase: “I don’t need anyone; I don’t need anything; I’d be fine on my own, at least I’d like to think so.”
These repeated phrases can also be seen as leitmotifs, commonly used in operas and movies, where a musical phrase is associated with a character, place, or thing and connects the music to the narrative arch. In this way, Diamond Destroyer tells the story of an emotional journey. Owen’s motifs are beautiful expressions of emotional struggles and haunting introspection. The instrumentation is a cohesive sonic force that cuts grooves for the biting lyrics to settle and take hold. As the motifs come and go, expand, evolve, and build in intensity and complexity, those grooves grow wider and deeper, and the overall impact of the album takes hold. I highly encourage checking out Diamond Destroyer of Death, which is available on Bandcamp and Hello Merch.