“Oh dear, you’re dead, but don’t despair!” Anyone familiar with the second-generation MMORPG RuneScape likely remembers the oddly comforting message you receive when your character perishes. In the newest release from Grey Matter, the Michigan ska-core collective putting out their newest album Climbing Out as a collaboration between New Jersey’s Choke Artist and bi-coastal ska label Bad Time Records, the sentiment takes on a whole new meaning. The lyric video for “Panic” is set in the blocky, pixelated world of RuneScape—instantly transporting me back to nights in 8th grade spent chasing sheep and getting annihilated by other players in the Wilderness, and all the associated anxieties that entailed. It is, to say the least, fitting.
“Panic” is an oscillating sonic assault of heavy bass, soft horns, and frenetic drums that effectively takes you through all the stages of a panic attack in just over a minute and thirty seconds. Spoken-word vocals that build to a scream and then drop back to a rhythmic calm root the listener firmly in the up-and-down experience of the titular panic, while lyrics like “manic but relieved, I can feel the beat of my heart slow down. Panic washed away, I can feel the smoke hit my lungs somehow” offer vivid snapshot after vivid snapshot.
“This video embodies our love of runescape and the ways in which we seek escape and attempt to find some solace in a decaying world,” said Grey Matter. “Lyrically, the song encapsulates our own struggles with anxiety and panic attacks.”
For anyone who experiences panic attacks this song will surely resonate with you the same way it did me. If you’ve been lucky enough to never have to struggle through one before, I would be hard-pressed to name a better representation of what it’s like.
And just to address the elephant in the room, you may be wondering if it was a missed opportunity not to call this song “Skanic Attack”. The answer is no. Climbing Out drops March 13, with vinyl pre-orders available through Bad Time Records and Choke Artist right now.