October 2, 2006
THESE ARMS ARE SNAKES [I]EASTER[/I] REVIEW
Okay, so I smoke some serious These Arms Are Snakes pole, but I’m still a journalist (kind of), and I can still be unbiased (kind of). The point is, all my seemingly overbearing affection for this band aside, Easter is still a remarkable release.
Four years after the demise of metalcore visionaries Botch, These Arms Are Snakes were still struggling to gain a reputation as their own band instead of “These Arms Are Snakes featuring ex-Botch/Kill Sadie/Nineironspitfire members.” Even after a wildly impressive debut EP and a raw, experimental LP in Oxeneers, the Snakes still struggled to gain respect for their own identity. After relentless touring with some big name acts like Isis, Minus the Bear, The (International) Noise Conspiracy, Zombi, Big Business, and more, the Snakes finally began to get the respect they deserved.
On their second LP, Easter, the band has shown tremendous growth and has effectively proven that they are their own entity. New drummer and producer Chris Common, who co-owns a studio with former Snakes producer Matt Bayles, transformed the band’s production and sound into something totally new – the band wasn’t particularly fond of the production on This is Meant to Hurt You, and Oxeneers seemed far too empty and abrasive for the band’s studio potential. However, on Easter, Common leaves nothing and no one out, and much like The Coma Recovery’s Drown That Holy End in Wine, Easter is loud but not distorted; smooth but not glossy; distinct but not overbearing. Every musician within the band performs at his peak on Easter, and each instrument, including vocalist Steve Snere, is spot on the entire album.
Opening track “Mescaline Eyes” truly sets the album’s tone: rock n’ fuckin’ roll. Vastly different from anything the Snakes have done before, “Mescaline Eyes” has the swagger of bands like the Rolling Stones and The Stooges combined with post-hard/math-core intensity, and the outcome is so jaw dropping and boundary shattering that it might just leave you scrambling to pick up your brains, ears, and even genitalia. Filled with an orgasmic synth solo from bassist/synthist Brian Cook, “Mescaline Eyes” couldn’t have introduced Easter any better.
The album’s single, “Horse Girl” follows, and keeps the audio explosion coming, with one of the coolest bass lines ever, again by Cook. Even as the band’s lead single, “Horse Girl” is one of the album’s all-around strongest tracks – not often common with the album’s catchiest tune. “Subtle Body,” “Abracadabraca,” and particularly “Coporeal” all show the band’s growth beyond standard post-hardcore. In every song – but chiefly these three – These Arms Are Snakes adapted the influence of some of their post-metal tour-mates, and in doing so Easter has definitively heavy, atmospheric influences similar to that of Isis, Mouth of the Architect, and more. The album’s most versatile track is “Lady North,” which blends the seemingly unrelated genres of rock, post-hardcore, and post-metal into an effortless, profound, and unique track.
And in traditional These Arms Are Snakes fashion, the album closes with an epic, climaxing song that brings all the intertwined concepts – both musically and lyrically – together for one final crushing conclusion; except this time, the final song is actually three. Beginning with acoustic and ambient guitars and vocals by Cook on “Perpetual Bris,” the concept smoothly transitions to the Radiohead-via-Pink Floyd track “Coporeal,” before dusking on the ultra-mathy post-hardcore breakdown on “Crazy Woman Dirty Train.”
The ability to equally and successfully blend seemingly unrelated styles is what makes Easter so special, and it’s what makes These Arms Are Snakes a truly gifted band. Because when the smarmy genres and sub-genres are removed, all that’s left is a redefinition of rock music. Bands have been making carbon copies of carbon copies since the 60s and 70s, and aside from the original burst of punk and hardcore in the late 70s and early 80s, rock has most definitely been dead, if not dying slowly and painfully. That’s not to say that there hasn’t been anything good since then, it’s just that nothing or almost nothing has been truly inventive except for maybe Nirvana.
Appropriately titled Easter, These Arms Are Snakes have resurrected and redefined rock music for the new millennium. Without question this is (tied for) the best album of the year, and (tied for) one of the most defining musical releases since Radiohead’s Kid A.
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