A nocebo effect occurs when a patient expects a detrimental result, psychologically or psychosomatically, from a dummy medical treatment. This leads to the physical or mental well-being of the individual being negatively affected, a self-fulfilling prophecy towards a downward spiral of health. The word has its etymological roots in the Latin word noceo, which translates as “I will harm,” as no doubt all scholars of dead languages reading this are more than aware. I am not saying that Latin has no relevance to contemporary communication per se, but in an ad hoc fashion I could discuss this ad nauseum. Callidus feci a iocus! Anyway, Nocebo is an outstanding album of brutal honesty, emotional openness and spiritual purging which brought nothing but joy to this reviewer.

Elizabeth Colour Wheel produce a noise which is filled with fear and tension whilst also being a source of emotional liberation and catharsis. Their sound shares the heavy rock complexity of bands like Neurosis, the quiet-loud template of post-rock, and the reverb drenched distortion of heavy shoegaze, all topped off with the vocals of a vengeful angel similar to outstanding acts such as Big Brave or Kate Bush had she chosen to drink White Lightning in the park instead of taking piano and ballet lessons. There are times on Nocebo when Elizabeth Colour Wheel feel like the most perfectly aligned bunch of individuals, and others when the music is being pulled in different directions by each player to satisfy their own particular needs. There is a lot going on here to get your head around. This is musical therapy for the penned-in, the primal scream for the stifled and a space of acceptance for the culturally marginalised. In short, this is great.

Lane Shi’s ferocious, vulnerable and oftentimes mantra-style vocals are the centrepiece of the eight tracks which make up this album, and she perfectly channels the multifarious emotions evoked by the dual guitar assault of Emmett Palaima and Alice Jackson, the sludge bass of Billy Cunningham and the urgency of Connor Devito’s drumming. Album opener ‘Pink Palm’ lays the ECW template out well, as there is a skittishness to the arrangement which results in an almost schizophrenic track which feels as though the creative weight of each member of the band is being heeded. The track veers one way and then the other, the pace and tone shifting to create a multi-headed beast of intensity and strength. This is followed by ‘Somnambulist’, the album’s shortest track at just over two minutes. The urgent rush of the first track is (somewhat) soothed by the distant keyboard tones and random distorted noises and atonal vocal intonations which have a dizzying effect and suggest a form of paralysis after the immediacy of the exhausting and multi-layered opener. ‘23’ comes next which is a mad rush of Deftones style drawn out guitars and vocals, complimented by the immediacy of the drumming. When the track slows halfway through, Lane Shi does her best Beth Gibbons impression before the guitars crash back in to support her in her obvious discomfort and pain - and it is ace.

‘Hide Behind (Emmett’s Song)’ begins with all of the fuzzy vibrancy of My Bloody Valentine at their energetic best, while Shi seems lost in her own Janis Joplin-esque wails and invocations. This is the perfect song to highlight Elizabeth Colour Wheel’s strange appeal, as in the seven minutes and twelve seconds of the song they shift gears constantly, moving the goalposts for the listener to play catch up with them as they hurtle along at an alarming rate. This is a band clearly wishing to push boundaries whilst simultaneously submerging themselves within the range of their musical influences. The song almost stops dead in its tracks and switches focus away from the feral-yet-linear ferocity of its opening section to an expansive downtempo sequence of unearthly screeching, pensive guitars and a rhythm section taking great delight in the beauty created in a breath. The second half of the song moves into slow but angst-ridden psychedelic territory, as if Bardo Pond were caffeine rather than dope fiends.

Each track brings something new to the table, and although there are similarities to some of the song structures in terms of the dynamics, these never feel overplayed or obvious. On each listen the album feels shorter, as the musical excursions and detours that the listener is taken along on feel as though they could go on forever as the music is doused in an ability to seduce and entice those willing to submit to the will of these five misfits who have joined together to make one beautiful whole.

There is a depth of space to Nocebo which few bands on their first release manage. There are elongated pauses, musical breakdowns which stretch on and on and on to mirror the urgent ferocity of what has gone before, all which then clash with the visceral burst of energy which creates a sense of alarm and pleasurable disquiet as the listener’s emotional state is tugged one way and then the next as we travel with the band on their emotional journey. This is a quite remarkable debut album with many moods. The overriding feeling once the final track fades is one of pleasure through pain, not in a smug schadenfreude sense, but one of unity, empathy and solidarity with those who have shared the feelings that being human all too often throw up.