Formed with members of west coast hardcore supergroups Botch and Kill Sadie, These Arms are Snakes follow up on their E.P. “This is Meant to Hurt You” with a Post-Hardcore masterpiece. Building upon the effects laden E.P., their full-length pummels the listener into submission with in your face vocals, a wall of guitar noise, thundering bass and tight drum beats all while maintaining an artsy aesthetic.
The opening track, “The Shit Sisters” commences with an electronic drum pattern followed by an acoustic guitar echoing it before a bass chord comes in and the album takes off. Steve Snere’s vocals sound like they are screamed from the top of a mountain. This is especially evident during the chorus where he screams “Ride, you dark cowboy!” The first track morphs from texture to texture with synth and bass syncopating in rhythm to full on wall-of-noise guitar with heavily reverbed vocals. It proves to be such an amazing listening experience for someone who enjoys this type of music.
This is an album of contradicting textures that manages to fit itself together perfectly as a whole. From the dark funeral-like dirge of “Idaho” to the Q and Not U call and response of “Darlings of New Midnight”, TAAS manage to craft a cohesive study of disillusionment and keep each song different enough to keep the listener interested while not sounding schizophrenic. The only track that somewhat fails is the Jupiter-era Cave-In like “Gadget Arms” and this is because it circles back on itself a little too much especially when compared to all the other tracks. It features drum beats that stop and start, guitar swells, heavily distorted bass and synth noise. At eight minutes, it feels a little too long for its own good but overall, it’s not a bad track.
Matt Bayles’ production on this album is pitch-perfect. Every instrument is allowed to exist in its own space even when all are fighting for their position in the sonic landscape. The bass on this album is especially impressive creating the exact blend of low end fuzz and mid range twang. The guitars represent the in your face aesthetic of hardcore with a large dose of reverb as if coming from a cathedral. The vocals go from whisper to hardcore scream with a healthy dose of reverb that adds to some of the preacher-like qualities to the lyrics. This is an album that deserves to be played loud so that you can hear the subtlety and power of the music.
Steve Snere proves to be a competent lyricist who conveys a great deal of emotion and importance without sounding like a dreaded emo band. On “Angela’s Secret,” he sings: “When you had your kids, you get to buy one get one free. And when you found their father, you know that you’ve got a limited warranty. A working woman’s muse, you’ve got the single mother’s blues.” This is a story of a single working mother with kids that is forced to steal and it is told from a perspective of an omniscient narrator. By the time that Brian Cook screams that all this pressure will result in a “real lack of sleep,” you feel the disillusionment and stress that the Mom is feeling. You can see why this woman has gotten so desperate.
Overall, These Arms are Snakes have released an album that is one of the best post-hardcore records of the past couple of years. They do just about everything right with very few missteps. If you are a fan of the genre or of the members’ previous bands, you should pick up this disc when you get a chance. It will certainly be on my top ten best albums list for 2004.