30 December, 2009

As The World Dies, The Eyes Of God Grow Bigger

24 hours left. I'm writing to say there is one album left for you to download (for free, and legally) and experience before the year runs out and that you should do so by clicking this link. Also I try to express why. I wasn't going to do a list for 2009, I didn't listen to barely any of the new stuff that interests me, but maybe I shall, because it is fun, if fruitless.

To be clear, the only purpose of this initial paragraph is to make some kind of bridge between my starting to type and my eventual inevitable gushing of uncontrollable torrents of praise. Well, almost. All The Empires Of The World had split when I reviewed their previous offering, the Last Rites EP. Now this Schrödinger’s Band of a three-piece have released an album – an honest-to-goodness LP. The collision chamber is loaded with all the expressions of unabashed doom, high-volume overtures, expansive ambient phases and paranoia from a past age that marked ATEOTW’s previous releases, and the lever is thrown. End result: the fifty-two and a half minute span of Blessings.

On first listen, the sheer fist-pumping exuberance of seemingly everything I heard had me completely breathless. Opener Sands of Saturn tumbles only slowly into its beginning, but then makes a most magnificently theatrical announcement of its presence, yawningly manoeuvres around for similar glorious outburst before coming up astride a refrain of pure victory. Each time, the hammer-blow is heralded by a high-end shriek, which I can only assume was intended to have that Pavlovian effect on the listener. The second track features equally hair-raising roaring - mashing one’s head around to Ghosts of Sargasso/Of The Father is music made participatory to the same extent as Guitar Hero. Later, Asleep At The Temple pairs uneasy quiet with two piercing volleys of fight-or-flight chaos that are fit to wake the dead.

Throw in a couple of the other eardrum-threatening moments on the album, and you already have a monster of an LP which will certainly make you smile a little wider, breathe a little heavier, and drink a little more, or faster. This is definitely the most out-and-out fun I’ve had listening to ATEOTW… and yet, this is not the simple full-fat offering it first seems.

Lo! Third track [I Perceive Your Resonance] slowly fades in light guitarwork, and then vocals, which come back more urgently and jolt the song into a roaring shoegazey ending. Titan of Light resists all temptation to go loud, winding through a gentle melody and lending Blessings some internal breathing space. And the album's final piece, The Prophet Part II, is completely redolent of Richard Thompson's Grizzly Man soundtrack, up until its delicious victory throes. No wonder, with all this confuddlement, that the tracks are able to play powerfully with the listener's anticipation.

Blessings might be about discovering dinosaurs in a faraway land, or questing for a source of light to banish an encroaching darkness from one's homeland. It might be loosely based on a mission to space that was salvaged from near-tragedy, or maybe an existential crisis where a hero is cast into the blackest of nights and comes back with an Answer. I've been listening while playing Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, and that fits too, really well. The point being that it's really difficult to tie Blessings down, setting-wise, that its sonic palette is really too broad. But if this is a story, it is (in my ears, at least) an adventure worthy of any hero. The word I keep coming back to is 'romantic.'

And finally, the album sounds really, really good. As in, these recordings are worthy of the epic compositions they render. The guitars ring clearly when tamed and unleash a throaty roar when cut loose. Drums lead intrepidly through the storms and tenderly through their lapses. Everything grows, crashes, everything burns, everything is stunned into eloquent silence by the full-blooded refrains that stand before it. It's immensely satisfying, enormous fun, and if you have time to check out one more album before the decade rings out (and don't want to pay money for it neither) then you should definitely make it this one.*

Records On Ribs say:
"...an album of immense magnitude; seven bombastic paens to the affect of all things grand... Melodies are bold and memorable whilst dynamics go far beyond the cliches of quiet/loud, with a subtly inventive handling of crescendos and intelligent deployment of that sadly underused technique in so much rock music: silence... SEE ALSO: Manatees, Slowdive, Pelican, Explosions in the Sky, Jesu, Cult of Luna, Red Sparowes."
You can download Blessings, for free, from their website here, so do!

* Obviously it will sound just as good in 2010, and beyond, of course.