Review Roundup: Animal Faces, Creeper, Skrapyard, and Treaty Of Versailles
On their five-song debut, Animal Faces meddle with a familiar sound they ultimately make their own. The trio is able to meld discordance, sludge, and beauty into a ferocious yet delicate mixture of jangly post-hardcore and earnest screamo. Hailing from the Greater Toronto Area, the young members that comprise the outfit have unquestionable style: Jagged and angular guitar riffs bounce freely off of calculated-but-lively drumming, all held together by a solid and adventurous bass. Album opener “Forward Through” begins with a standalone guitar line, slightly off-kilter but absolutely riveting. Once all three bandmembers kick in, it’s a full-force math-rock race to the finish, replete with off-time breaks and stylish hooks. “Aesthetics” picks up the pace from its previous track, vocalist Ryan Naray bellowing the war cry: “To think that we’re built this way, how can we change state?” This line becomes the driving force behind Analytical Dreaming, a flag-bearing reassessment of the fine line between screamo, indie, emo, and hardcore. Where bands like Touché Amoré and La Dispute are currently taking off due to their straddling on this crossroads, the boys in Animal Faces are finally bringing something new to the table. “Living Spaces” is a prime explicator of this dissection, revealing a dark undercurrent that fastidiously explores the technicality of Native and Age Sixteen while it blows a whole into its framework, spiraling downward into a detuned sludge trade-off between guitar and bass à la Neurosis. I also implore you to take a closer look at Narry’s lyrics just before this tidal wave hits: “A process, a repeat of how you wasted time / you always wanted more simple times, you know why you’re here / you always asked for more open space, when your mind is clear.” And then it hits. It all synthesizes, analytically searching through an open space. “A Deep Thought” and “Follow Faster” up the ante to levels you wouldn’t think possible. The group is so fucking tight you’d think they were an institution. Maybe they will be. The truth of the matter is that in this day and age, it isn’t hard to find a group of talented young musicians performing in a band. I’m pretty sure (though I may be wrong) that no one on Sumerian Records‘ roster is over thirty years of age. The problem with most of their bands, however, is that they place technical artifice ahead of emotion. Listening to Animal Faces, one gets the feeling of experiencing the best of both worlds. Riveting chops butt heads with emotional prowess and the listener is left gasping. This is one of my favourite releases already and it’s totally worth your time. You should not miss a chance on seeing these soon to be legendary locals.
Allow me to preface this review by stating that this may, indeed, be the heaviest release to come out in 2011. Creeper‘s debut 7inch exposes its murky head with an explosion of off-time, detuned sludge-punk goodness. The main riff in “Get A Grip” is a total slowdown of the Bremen sound. Think of German bands like Carol and Mörser but dropped a couple hundred beats per minute and washed in a healthy mixture of grime and pot smoke. Lyrics are righteously pissed, telling the listener that “this ends now! We’ve fucking had it!” The B-side of this 45rpm features more of the same, but throws a curveball here and there. “Sucker” begins in slow-tempo fashion, but picks up and mercilessly pummels you as it “screams out in blasphemy.” “Deadbeat” experiments a bit with the time signature, reminding me of the good old days when The Ocean Collective weren’t horrible. Altogether, it’s a solid release. It isn’t bringing much new to the table, but this Toronto four-piece is making proper bedroom moshing music. Seriously, you aren’t going to have a bad time if you throw this beast on. They’re good dudes, they’re making music they love, and I have to give them kudos for the Children Of Men quote at the end of the record. These guys have total potential and have stepped up their game from the demo they put out in 2009. Grab a beer, light a joint, and throw this motherfucker on the turntable.
Skrapyard – 2010 Demo
This shit is played sloppily, recorded terribly, and really angry. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Skrapyard are playing straight-up hardcore punk in the vein of other contemporary heavyweights like Urban Blight and Total Trash, but with an Oi! edge. There aren’t really any standout tracks and there isn’t much to say about the cheeky lyrical content, but as an homage or pastiche this thing fucking rocks. It also has Ryan Lowry, the vocalist for Raw Nerve, playing bass, so you can pretty much sum up in your head exactly what it sounds like. It’s nothing new, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t enjoyable.
Treaty Of Versailles – 2011 Demo
Well, I’m amused. Treaty Of Versailles are a five-piece hailing from Iowa and, if this release is any indication, they sure do like Spirit Of Versailles and Neil Perry. I jest! This four-song demo (three if you choose to discount the Neil Perry cover) is quick, it hits home, and it nails its target audience. Hard. “Dirty Squirrel” opens familiarly enough, a clean guitar line followed by absolute chaos. It’s all pretty generic until it starts crumbling apart. The chorus is beautiful: The vocalist croons, “wait for me” in an enticingly off-key manner that fits perfectly with the ensuing chaos. It gave me shivers and, believe me, this is never a bad thing. The song has enough start-stop action to appease the techies alongside enough screamo genre staples to keep everyone happy. “Juniper Drive” opens with a nice alternately picked jangle and leads into a pummeling cacophony of palm-muted mayhem, only to return home to cleans. “Iowa Highway 20” dishes out more of the same. It’s all catchy, it’s all well played, and it’s all done with an earnest sensibility that is hard to counter. The only glaringly weak point on the record is a cover of Neil Perry’s classic “Fading Away Like The Rest Of Them,” a song that, if done right, is an emotive and chaotic landmark. Did it spark the whole new wave of post-rock influenced screamo that’s all the rage in Europe right now? Probably not, but it’s a well-known early example of it. These youngins give it their all and, for the most part, get it right! The original, however, is hard to top. There’s that amazing drum fill at 2:15 that is just astronomical and difficult for even the most seasoned drummer to pull off. While Treaty’s cover is filled with passion, like the rest of their demo, it simply doesn’t cut it when there are so many bands going for this sound. The band has so much time and potential to refine their sound, however, that this isn’t even a criticism as much as it is a hope for the future. “Dirty Squirrel” is a fucking killer track. Let’s hear some more of that, boys!