I wasn’t too pleased with The Sound of Animals Fighting’s last release, Lover, the Lord Has Left Us. I’m all for experimenting and stretching the boundaries of traditional music. TSOAF tried to do that, elaborating on their brand of progressive post-hardcore that began with the release of their first EP, Tiger and the Duke. But instead of building upon that same formula, they went a bit overboard with the experimental aspect of their music. Lover was filled with interesting sounds and irregular song structures, but it lacked the driving energy that made TSOAF worth listening to in the first place.
Thankfully, the band took a step back for their latest full length, The Ocean and the Sun. Although I doubt they could’ve taken a more experimental route after having released Lover, TSOAF has truly managed to strike a balance between their rock roots and progressive ambitions. Take “The Heraldic Break of the Manufacturer’s Medallion” (what?) — it kicks in with a complex guitar riff (undoubtedly the work of Sir Matt Embree) that undergoes multiple key changes before falling into a powerful chorus reminiscent of Tiger and the Duke. After one listen of this song, I knew TSOAF was back.
But we also get our dose of the weird. “Uzbekistan” is a perfect example of this. It begins with a gurgle of industrial static before transitioning into an eerie synth loop. Drummer Chris Tsagakis (also of Rx Bandits fame) then comes in and backs this up with some impressive percussion work while some lady begins to make a chant that has an oddly M.I.A.-ish feel to it. I hope that confused you, because that’s part of the beauty behind The Ocean and the Sun. TSOAF takes what they know listeners will like, lets them get a little comfortable, and then throws them a curveball. And for the most part, it all works out. I’m hoping that we haven’t seen the last of these guys. With Circa Survive hard at work on their new album (and hopefully the Rx Bandits are doing the same?), this probably won’t happen for a while. But at least they’re back on the right track, and far as I can tell, things can only get better.