Review Roundup: Sky Came Burning, Spiders, These Branches, True Widow, and Zond
Sky Came Burning – The Opposition
Creative people know when inspiration hits. It just does. Frantically, they grab a pen and some paper, and get that shit down – because who knows? Maybe they’ll get writer’s block for a long time, and that one idea may have been the one. Either way, inspiration is a funny thing. It can come from within, from another artist, or from a different art form altogether (on a personal note, films will sometimes spark something inside me musically).
Enter Sky Came Burning, a talented group of instrumentalists (they do play very well), with a major lack of inspiration. Tracks titled “I Once Fought Chuck Norris” (seriously, somebody kill this meme) and “Man of My Word” give this away on a surface level, but it is when you get into the core of the EP that it unearths itself; kitschy southern riffs lead off the first two numbers, atypical breakdowns make frequent appearances, and “emotional” clean singing parts interject to provide some…different things.
It isn’t all bad; there are some intelligible chord progressions, a guitar solo worthy of note, and some of the aforementioned breakdowns do get you moving, but it is all overshadowed by the lack of originality. The Opposition feels inspired by other bands (A Life Once Lost immediately come to mind, among other metalcore/deathcore acts), when it should be inspired by the members themselves. There is definitely some technical talent in places, but it doesn’t make up for a subpar effort.
Spiders – High Society
This quick, two-song 7″ from grungy rock outfit Spiders is a fun six-minute romp in the vein of more metallic The Hives. The opening title track has an overshadowing western vibe to it, with
Ann-Sofie Hoyles’s throaty croon (read: awesome) providing a distinct charm.
Witchcraft‘s John Hoyles is the main axeman, and while nothing here is super original, he deserves credit for delivering on the mood these two tracks create; the western-y opener and the poppier “Gracious Man”, both of which, like Witchcraft, have an overarching stoner vibe.
It is hard to judge a band by two tracks, but as a release, High Society succeeds. At the very least, it will pique your interest, if not make you investigate Spiders further.
These Branches – This One’s On You
The most disappointing thing about These Branches‘s This One’s On You is that “Thrillher” is less of an ode to Michael Jackson than I had hoped. Other than that, the pop-punkish tidings brought forth on the record’s ten tracks are quite substantial.
Despite the abundance of pop punk that seems to appear every day, These Branches avoid definite classification (a bit more hardcore in spots, a bit more screamo in others) and predictability in the process. Opener “Linen Lines” is the starting point of this argument; an Against Me!-ish opening makes its way into a chord progression that doesn’t go exactly where one would expect, before getting some saxophone assistance and closed off with a quick and powerful breakdown.
“Anatomyne” is another track worthy of note; the acoustic intro will remind you of City and Colour, before the track kicks into full gear and sounds (thankfully) nothing like City and Colour.
Perfectly content as a pop punk record, This One’s On You manages to be catchy and sing-alongable (is that a word?) and yet avoids the obvious cliches of the genre.
True Widow – As High as the Highest Heavens and from the Center to the Circumference of the Earth
Now that’s an album title. As removed, and apocalyptic as its title, True Widow‘s As High as the Highest Heavens is grand in its minimalism – a true lesson in musical craftsmanship. Sounding most often like a noisy, (really) dark Autolux, the nine numbers that makes up this record are built on repetition, haunting vocals, distortion, and groovy drums.
Six out of nine tracks run at least five minutes in length, and the band makes use of every one. In fact, True Widow work best with longer tracks; the repetition has more of an effect, instruments breathe, and band isn’t in a rush. That isn’t to say that tracks like “Skull Eyes” and “Night Witches” don’t make their point – because they do have their place – it is just that they play a distant second fiddle to seven-minute gems like “Blooden Horse” and “Boaz”.
Production of a record isn’t necessarily telling of how good a record actually is, but As High‘s production is worth noting. It actually feels like the music is live, and that you are seeing it in person. You can feel the mood, you can see the dark purple and pink lights.
Few records in 2011 will create a mood as dark and haunting as As High as the Highest Heavens (it comes third to This Will Destroy You‘s Tunnel Blanket and Tartar Lamb‘s Polyimage of Known Exits – boy there have been some troubled artists making statements this year), but with it comes a well-crafted piece of work that will delight fans of noisy rock.
Zond – Zond
Listening to Zond‘s self-titled LP on headphones is rather mesmerizing; unlike fellow labelmates True Widow, who accomplish their darkness with minimalism, Zond does it with layers of noise, feedback, and instrumentation. The effect is powerful in spots, but can get lost and brushed off as noise pollution.
Opening with a track like “IO” is a strong choice – it sets the mood, and as the second-longest track prepares you for what’s to come. This is where the effect of the layers of the noise is not lost – it is most definitely powerful. However, the track that follows it (“Choam”) is a bit more forward, and while covered in noise, stops the momentum built up by the sonic landscape of the opener. “Face in Grey” paces a bit more like you would expect from a band named Zond, and as such, the momentum is retained. But like the first duo, it is followed up by the oddly fast “Blue Haze”. It is this cycle in which Zond is held back.
If this record had half as many tracks, and was made up entirely of the slower-burning, punishing numbers like “IO” and “Face in Grey”, Zond may be right up with labelmates True Widow. That said, there is still a lot to like here for people like that layers of fuzz, noise, and feedback.