I went back and forth on whether or not to review Isserley’s Princess Euthanasia Project EP. The reason? It touches on some very sensitive themes.[Content warning: this review will discuss topics including mental illness, suicide, and self-harm]
In a promo piece for Analogue Trash, “The saddest girl in Australia” had this to say about single “Girl in the Shell”:
‘I wrote this song about the feelings I’ve had in the past when I’ve tried to take my own life, and about those thoughts of failure and disappointment with oneself.’
This also sums up Princess Euthanasia Project as a whole. It’s four tracks of searing honesty from an artist of enormous courage. It takes a lot to put yourself out there in this way.
So I want to tread carefully here. I have to. I want to be respectful of Isserley and what she has lived through. What those who can connect with her work on a personal level have lived through. Including, it must be said, myself.
Now one thing I should note is that this record is not an exhausting slog. It’s obviously not happy hardcore, nor is it something that you can casually throw on. But if you are familiar with darker strains of post-punk (especially goth-rock), then you’ll find a fit right here. It’s no coincidence that I found myself listening to Christian Death not long after Princess….
Vocally, Isserley actually reminds me of Switchblade Symphony’s Tina Root. Her voice is beautiful, bewitching, haunting. It’s suited to the subjects of Princess…, and it contrasts so well with the brooding, thundering guitar chords which cover most of the tracks.
“Reigning Disappointment” begins with a beautiful piano melody. It lures you in before those chords strike. There is something post-apocalyptic about this. The dust is settling after a cataclysm. The world is coming back into view, recognisable but blasted and forever altered.
But this track is strangely optimistic. Despite stating that ‘I used to sympathise, I used to empathise,’ Isserley is determined to help others with their pain, despite her own issues and the odds. Resolutely so, if lines like these are anything to go by:
‘But I will rule with iron fists/Since I believe in nothing now/I’ll do my best to save you somehow.’
That’s not to say that Isserley isn’t struggling herself though: ‘Why do I break myself down for them?’
“Let’s Play War” features some killer lines, like ‘I’ve been counting bullets like sheep,’ and ‘In the combat zone, I feel at home/Is the combat zone my only hope?’ In my experience, comparisons with wars and battlegrounds are common among people who live through such issues.
What’s interesting here is that “Let’s Play War” is so open to interpretation. Who or what is Isserley talking to/about? Who is the enemy and, crucially, who are the allies? You could argue that mental illness, self-harm or the world at large are the enemies. But some of us have considered mechanisms like self-harm as sources of aid. Part of an arsenal.
I need to be perfectly clear here: I am not saying that either Isserley or myself are advocating for anything. But like all great art, this EP offers insights. It can help those unfamiliar with such topics to gain some level of understanding, even if it’s in a purely emotional sense. And again, speaking for myself, it’s always encouraging to find someone who understands and can provide a healthier way of processing things.
Again, it’s worth noting that, despite its themes, Princess… is not an especially difficult listen. The comparisons to darker goth rock stand. My job is deep dive into things, and naturally, this one struck close to home. But even on the most superficial levels, Princess… is a great record.
As I said before, I went back and forth on whether or not to publish this. And I can’t deny that it’s been difficult to write about. But Isserley deserves enormous respect for producing something like Princess.… Not only because of her courage but also for the simple fact that she’s an enormously talented creator.
And audiences deserve respect too. It’s wrong to assume that the majority of people will simply want to disregard or shy away from something like this.
I highly recommend Princess Euthanasia Project. And I hope that the fact that it even exists tells you this: there are always healthier outlets and ways to cope. There is always hope.
You can find Isserley here:
Princess Euthanasia Project EP, presented by Tigersquawk Records