Fear Before the March of Flames – The Always Open Mouth

September 12, 2006

Colorado’s Fear Before the March of Flames are back with a record that is sure to surprise awaiting fans. The Always Open Mouth, the much anticipated follow-up to 2004’s Art Damage is the band’s third Equal Vision Records release. What separates TAOM from their previous material is their expanded roster; with the induction of second guitarist Zach Hutchings and Billy Johnson on keys, the band has been able to add a new level of sound to their music. You can sense a certain “epicness” in every song. The guitar work is phenomenal; rather than constantly using distinct math-riffs in most of their songs (as it was in AD), the guitars experiment with other sounds, at times sounding ambient while at others uncharacteristically melodic and catchy. The keyboards go a long way as well, adding a well-placed electronic vibe to their music. Another thing I find great is the change in vocals. One complaint that I’ve had with the band in the past is the raspiness of David Marion’s vocals. It’s not that they’re bad or anything, but at times it seems so inaudible that there really doesn’t seem to be any use in writing actual lyrics. TAOM changes that; as well as tweaking the aforementioned problem, Marion switches it up more often, either speaking or giving a shot at singing himself (at least I think he does). There’s still plenty of singing on guitarist Adam Fisher’s part; his voice has always gone well with the band’s music and only gets better this time around.

Fear Before the March of Flames – Taking Cassandra to the End of the World Party

Fear Before the March of Flames – Of Horses and Medicine

Fear Before the March of Flames – Complete and Utter Confusion…

Fear Before the March of Flames – …As a Result of Signals Being Crossed

All in all, this is a damn good album and was definetly worth the wait. Fans should be please once The Always Open Mouth hits shelves September 19th.


Elan Vital

May 23, 2006

A note: Sorry for the lack of updates on everyone but Zack and Adrian’s part. Personally I’ve been too busy reading comic books and frolicking outdoors and really had forgotten about writing until Zack slapped and yelled at me yesterday. That hurt a lot, and was pretty damn scary. So now I’m back, rejoice for more slanted and biased reviews on my behalf!

Now for some music, I was supposed to write a review for the new Pretty Girls Make Graves CD, Elan Vital, about a month ago and never got around to it. In brief, the record is a departure from the familiar PGMG sound (fast/awesome/indie/dance/rock/who-ha), but the group manages to pull it off and really display just how multitalented they all are. Elan Vital is most noticeably a lot slower than any previous PGMG release, but as a I stated above the fine men and women of the band keep you entertained by showing off just how skilled they all are. However, at the same time this was to their disadvantage in my book because the CD left me really hankering some of their fast beats and crazy ass guitars instead of another 4 minute trancey epic. Despite this let down, Elan Vital is really a one of a kind record this year and I am strongly going to recommend you go buy it if you already haven’t.

God damn, that was half assed.

Pretty Girls Make Graves – The Nocturnal House
Pretty Girls Make Graves – Parade
Pretty Girls Make Graves – The Magic Hour


The Sound of Animals Fighting – Lover, the Lord Has Left Us…

April 21, 2006

I’ve been waiting to listen to this album for a very long time. To me, anything involving Matt Embree, or any of the other members of the Rx Bandits for that matter, is definetly worth a listen. Last year’s Tiger and the Duke was an amazing, groundbreaking album. Although it consisted of nine tracks, only four of which were actual full band songs, Tiger was an amazing album. Anthony Green’s sirenic voice, along with Embree’s impeccable and innovative guitarwork, and the assistance of a couple of the creative guys from the now-defunct Finch, came together to form what was one of my favorite listens of 2005.

For those of you who haven’t heard of The Sound of Animals Fighting, the basic premise is this: an amalgam of musicians from different bands, whose identities are concealed by the masks of different animals, come together to form a progressive, experimental group of which the world has never seen the likes of. So technically I can’t say with certainty who is in the band, seeing as their faces are hidden. But listen to TatD and tell me that isn’t Anthony Green. Their first album was critically acclaimed for its combination of innovative instrumentals with that alternative, post-hardcore sound seen in bands such as Saosin, Rx Bandits, and others of similar genre.

With that said, TSOAF’s sophomore effort, Lover, the Lord Has Left Us…, sounds nothing like their debut release. Don’t expect any aggressive tracks such as Tiger and the Duke’s “Act I: Chasing Suns.” If I were to describe Lover in one word, it would have to be…weird. Now let’s not get the wrong idea. If anything, the band goes beyond Tiger and further strengthens their status as pioneers in the experimental genre. I find it really hard to even begin comprehending how the writing process of Lover’s tracks begin. They use such wide, varying combinations of sounds to build each track on the album. However, there is a greater focus on the technical side of the music and incorporating unconventional sounds rather than on traditional instruments. This is both good and bad. Although the band’s music is very (and I emphasize on very) unique, listeners may lose themselves in an ocean of noise; as interesting the sound of bongos and indian chants may be, I often found myself forgetting I was actually listening to the new TSOAF cd. I really miss their defining guitar riffs and drumming. But hey, you still got Anthony Green, as well as Chiodos’ Craig Owens and Days Away’s Keith Goodwin joining the vocal line-up! Green, as always, does a great job, but unfortunately doesn’t strain his voice as much on this record as he did on the previous one with his trademark scream. Owens’ voice goes perfectly with the music, especially on “Horses in the Sky” (my favorite track off the album). But now you can’t even tell who is behind the mechanics of the album. Because there is seldom any really defined guitar part, you cannot tell, for example, whether Matt Embree is actually helping out on the album or not.

So that’s my spiel on the album. I’d be interested in listening to what you guys have to say about it, especially those of you who have listened to Tiger and the Duke. Here are a few tracks from the album…

The Sound of Animals Fighting – Skullflower

The Sound of Animals Fighting – Horses in the Sky

The Sound of Animals Fighting – Stockhausen, Es Ist Ihr Gehirn, Das Ich Suche

And what the hell, why not a couple tracks from Tiger and the Duke!

The Sound of Animals Fighting – Act I: Chasing Suns

The Sound of Animals Fighting – Act II: All Is Ash or the Light Shining Through It

BONUS: And while we’re on the topic of Rx Bandits side projects, here’s a song by a band called Satori. Led by Rx saxophonist Steven Borth, Satori makes some nice feel-good reggae-like music. This song could’ve made it on my upcoming spring mix since it always makes me smile, but there’s so many others to choose I figured I just might as well slip it in here.

Satori – Finding Your Place


The Flaming Lips – At War With the Mystics

April 8, 2006

Let me start by saying that I am in love with the Flaming Lips, so this post is a bit biased. These crazy alt-rockers from Oklahoma have a special place in my heart. I have been anticipating the release of their newest album, At War With the Mystics, for some time now, as these guys have taken their sweet time. Their previous album, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, was released back in 2002 is one of my favorite albums. Yoshimi had plenty of commercial success, while keeping the music quality.

At War With the Mystics seems to continue the Lips trend towards even more synths and beeps, while still continuing with the offbeat lyrics and generally happy tone. My three favorite tracks exemplify some of the directions that The Flaming Lips are heading towards. The first single, The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song, is upbeat and features amusing and adorable vocals. The “Yeah yeah yeah, yeah yeah yeah yeah” and “no no no no, no no no no” breaks in song are the highlights of a well-rounded first single. The next two songs are a bit different than YYY Song. Mr. Ambulance Driver is a much more quiet and harmonious song, featuring emotional synth lines and powerful lyrics. This song is also featured in the Wedding Crashers soundtrack. The last song, The W.A.N.D. has been floating around the blogs for a while, and while some are touting it as the gem of the album, I do not agree. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely enjoy the song. I just don’t think that it is as strong as the other two I mentioned. The song features a dirty bassline and airy vocals, but just isn’t quite as good as Yeah Yeah Yeah Song or Mr. Ambulance Driver. This in no way means the song is bad, as it is probably better than 95% of the music being made today, it is just not The Flaming Lips finest. I still recommend you check the song out, however.

The album as a whole is pretty solid, and while I’m not in love with At War as much as I was with Yoshimi, it is a quality followup. It’s good to hear these guys again, and I welcome them back with open arms.

The Flaming LipsMr. Ambulance Driver
The Flaming LipsThe W.A.N.D.
The Flaming LipsYeah Yeah Yeah Song [download or die]

Guest Album Review: The Appleseed Cast – Peregrine

April 3, 2006

The Appleseed Cast’s latest album Peregrine may perhaps be one of the finest releases of 2006. Everything about the album is great. If you’re a fan of amazing instrumentals, then this is definetly an album you should get your hands on. I would review this album myself, but my friend and fellow Hoya, Dave Ambrose, can probably tell you about it ten times better than I ever could. After reading his review, definetly check out his site, Hate Something Beautiful, a great site that provides you with all the essential music news of the day.

Alright. Without further ado, here is Sir Ambrose’s review for Peregrine

Try to imagine the day when you were first born. I know it is difficult, but just think. Do you remember that blinding light overhead in the ER? Do you hear faint whispers as well as joyous crying from the mother that birthed you? How did the stale, hospital air taste on your lips? Or do you remember nothing? Was it all just one, big blur? Is that how life should be, a cycle of sensations that one day comes to an end?

Maybe I forgot to talk about “rebirth,” a word I was taught to view as trivial, a waste of my time and effort to ever think about. For certain, I knew of only two things: creation and destruction, one of which already occurred.

Lawrence, Kansas fostered four individual souls ten years ago to create a musical experience like no other. Their sound manifested itself upon our sensations. The members of The Appleseed Cast (TAC), quite simply, are our version of Bach, Vivaldi and Chopin. Lyrical and instrumental geniuses would be understatements when describing one of the most influential bands of the last decade. Veterans Chris Crisci (vocals/guitar), Aaron Pillar (guitar), Marc Young (bass) and recent new-comer from the defunct Casket Lottery, Nathan “Junior” Richardson (drums/percussion) released “Peregrine” on March 21, 2006 through California-based label, The Militia Group. The story that follows is a tale unlike any other, filled with instrumental crescendos, soaring guitar chords, dazzling thrums overlaid upon secrets, ghosts, spirituality, anguish and family.

Thirteen tracks is all it took to make “Peregrine” my favorite TAC album of all time, and that’s telling you something. Resting atop the evanescent giants of “Low Level Owl Versions 1 and 2” as well as “Two Conversations,” “Peregrine” paints a landscape with all colors, hues and tones, imbued with brooding emotion.

Although TAC did not intend to create a concept album with their Militia Group debut, indefinite hints of a general theme lurk throughout: a patchwork of images flood the listener’s audible space, from a once loving father racked with guilt to a son fighting against his enmity. These images are obvious, but what are possibly more interesting are those that lay between the chorus and chord. Let me explain….

TAC has always been renowned for their use of inverting tapes and experimentation of loops, but never toying with the real deal. Incorporating live electronic transmissions is a first from what I have heard of TAC, specifically in “Mountain Halo.” After thirty-five listens, one picks up a faint radio transmission of sorts at the end of an industrialized version of a modern ghost story: “Mass service units,” a man on a radio explains, interrupted with static following and then, “…[something is] flying into 2 World Trade Center.” What is Crisci telling us?

The beauty of the album is its never-ending appeal to attract another listen. When I first heard the album, the sound was something I was not expecting: cleaner and tighter, the sound was much crisper in comparison to past releases, especially with Richardson’s array of percussion arrangements. “Ceremony,” the album’s opener, showcases this altered and expounded sound. Guitar chords move into shallow lulls of fabricated loops, bursting into an explosion of deep and heavy drums. TAC matches, if not, surpasses the lone-instrumental genius of Explosions In The Sky with their “ceremonial” procession. Certainly, “Ceremony” sets the stage for the coming twelve tracks: it’s hard to describe in words, but our journey leads us to a sensational manifestation of harmony in a fifty-five minute cycle. “Woodland Hunter (Part 1)” reminds me of the “Two Conversations” glory days. With Crisci pontificating metaphors of winter and summer, I felt back home in my listening place to those times in “A Dream For Us.” What makes the track so special is the audible staggering of sound: a guitar ends, a snare-drum picks up…back and forth till merging into “Here We Are (Family In The Hallways).” Like other TAC tracks, “Here We Are (Family In The Hallways)” utilizes instrumental as well as lyrical crescendos to their full effect. Magnificent are their transitions from chaos to harmony, more specifically, from chord distortion to perfection.

“Silas’ Knife” is a cut above many of the other tracks on the album (no pun intended!). Crisci comes in and out of vocal awareness with haunting woos and pauses, followed by elongated rhythm sections by Pillar. A harmonica finds its way into the middle movement, only to be surpassed by a marvelous drum breakdown toward the latter of the song.

Without question, “Sunlit Ascending” bears a striking instrumental resemblance to “Losing Touching Searching” on TAC’s famed “Two Conversations.” With some high-ended guitar notes and wonderful percussional execution, “Sunlit Acsending” crescendos to something we have and always will love about TAC: a tsunami of sound finds a way to form into one, unified harmony of vocals and instruments. It truly is a thing of beauty.

Behind “Ceremony” lies “Peregrine’s” most underrated and gem of a track, titled “An Orange And A Blue.” The name sounds simple enough, right? Right, but the sound is so far from it. The musical landscape of “An Orange And A Blue” is so complex, with over four different movements under a span of four minutes and eleven seconds that the listener, like most TAC pieces, finds himself/herself laden with magnificent colors of euphony. Wow.

Toward the end of the album, TAC really picks up their musical prowess with stunners such as “Woodland Hunter (Part 2),” the title track and of course, “The Clock And The Storm.” Seven songs before, Crisci laid down a story of allegorical brilliance: laden with nature’s best analogies, “(Part 1)” elaborates on a tale of blossoming love. Fast-forward some years, where “(Part 2)” develops. “A heart filled with long and despair,” mellows Crisci along the simplified tune, with keyboard and snare-taps adding to the somber atmosphere. The feel of the ballad smoothly transitions into “Peregrine,” the title track of the album. To be honest, when I hear title tracks of albums, I usually find something is missing, some sort of punch to it. Sunny Day Real Estate’s “How It Feels To Be Something On” and Jimmy Eat World’s “Clarity.” However, TAC was able to deliver a worthy example of how to formulate a beautiful title track. Besides the sheer awesomeness of instrumentals on the four minute and thirty second eye-opener, Crisci’s voice and words take the stage in ways I never heard imaginable: “When you crawl back to me, you will be on your knees,” he belts out. The imagery of the lyric is awe-inspiring.

With the exceptions of “Mare Vitalis” and “Two Conversations,” TAC ended on the typical note of an instrumental closer…and what a note to end on, if I might add. From slow, subtle movements to fast, intricate interludes and rhythm sections, “The Clock And The Storm” truly represents my love for this band.

After all my listens of the album, through and through, I could only find one flaw, rather one realization: Hardly anyone, even those die hard fans in the “scene,” those tracing back to 1984 with Rites of Spring and Jawbreaker, will appreciate the genius this album exudes. Why, you might ask? Simple. The members of The Appleseed Cast are amongst a small group of musicians who still do what Rites of Spring and Jawbreaker did twenty-two years ago: craft art that hits home at the heart of listener, an art of precision and passion.

Rating: 9.5/10

Here are Dave’s favorite tracks from Peregrine:

The Appleseed Cast – Woodland Hunter (Part 1)

The Appleseed Cast – Here We Are (Family in the Hallways)

The Appleseed Cast – Mountain Halo

Thanks Dave! And don’t forget to check out Hate Something Beautiful everybody.